Clare College Cambridge

Anglo Saxon, Norse and Celtic

Caroline Purse

Independent School, Hertfordshire


Looking around Cambridge for the first time, I was shown around a different college by a student guide who thought that it would be useful to show me the Sidgewick Site where lectures are held. On the way back, however, he made the crucial mistake of walking into the city centre through Clare College, and I will readily admit that I fell totally in love with the place. It is as beautiful as the more imposing colleges, but without the austere feel which comes hand in hand with the more grandiose ones, and most importantly as a smaller college there isn’t the same sense of anonymity which put me off the bigger colleges. Most strikingly, Clare is a college where everybody is welcoming, where it is easy to make friends, and where it is clear that everybody really enjoys what they do.

As for what I do, I am an ASNaC, that is, someone who studies Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic. It is a small department, but all the better for it. We all absolutely love the course, and it is refreshing to be able to enjoy going to lectures, researching exciting areas for essays and being able to take pleasure in discussing our opinions and ideas with supervisors, lecturers and fellow students who are all infallibly friendly. I have discovered a whole new subject which I had never even known existed, and with it I have met a group of people who, like me, are discovering all that it has to offer. Some people may find it strange to be reading such an unusual subject, but I believe that because it is a subject which offers such a different outlook on the traditional study of history, literature and language, all of the people who are on my course are taking it for the sheer enjoyment of such a wonderful opportunity to learn something different, which makes life as an ASNaC fun and exciting, with a real sense of camaraderie.

What is more, we have a brilliant ASNaC Society which organises weekly pub trips, social events and guest speakers so it is a great opportunity to get out and socialise with people who love the subject and who come from all different colleges. Clare is undoubtedly one of the very best colleges for ASNaC as we have two ASNaC fellows, and the first year accommodation is situated less than five minutes’ from lectures with easy access to the departmental library, the University Library and Clare’s own Forbes Mellon Library. As an ASNaC I often have to have access to quite a few books at a time for writing my essays, but with these three different sources available and with the fact that the other five Clare ASNaCs take different papers from me there is never a race to take out the books each week. Having so few ASNaCs spread across the three years in Clare means that we can form a really supportive group, and as a first-year Clare ASNaC I have found this support absolutely invaluable.

Studying ASNaC at Clare College is without doubt one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had, and I am glad that I have been able to throw myself into both college life and ASNaC life. I have met and befriended so many lovely people at Clare who, like me, enjoy their subjects and have a wide range of interests, and it is a real privilege to be able to combine this wider college experience with the close ASNaC community which I have also been welcomed into.