Clare College Cambridge

Modern and Medieval Languages

Jessica Lindley

I never thought that I would stand even the slightest chance of getting into Cambridge until my sister got a place in 2011. Then I began to research it and realised just how fantastic it sounded – I knew already that I wanted to study languages and the Cambridge course provides an opportunity to gain a deep cultural knowledge alongside the language itself. I was adamant that I wasn’t going to apply to Clare and be at the same college as my sister, but, having wandered round several others, I had to conclude that Clare really is the nicest! The grounds and Clare Bridge are beautiful, and it lives up to its reputation as the ‘friendly’ college. At Clare, all the First Years live really close to the Sidgwick Site, where most of the Humanities Faculties are, which is very handy for 9am lectures!

The interview process seems daunting, but don’t let it put you off! Everyone is absolutely terrified on interview day but I just tried to see it as a twenty-minute mini supervision. This is one of the most unique aspects of teaching in Cambridge so the interview is a good chance to see what you make of it.

One of the best aspects of the MML course at Cambridge is its level of variety. I study French and post-A Level Russian, so in First Year I have no choice of papers – I have an hour each of ‘Use of’ (basically grammar and reading comprehension), Translation into English, Speaking, and two hours of lectures for the Culture paper. For this, we also have a supervision once every two weeks. The speaking and culture supervisions are in groups of two or three, which gives us lots of opportunity for discussion. For culture, we look at texts from medieval to modern, which give us a flavour of everything before we pick our options for next year. I am hopefully going to take some of the more modern papers and perhaps pick up Polish or Catalan. There are also chances to borrow papers from the Linguistics Tripos. The course can seem intense at times and is definitely much more fast-paced than any other teaching I’ve ever had, but that just means that you make progress faster!

On a typical day I will have between one and four hours of contact time. This is the biggest difference from being at school – particularly as an MMLer, there aren’t that many hours of taught class, so you have to be self-motivated! I tend to get up and go to the library to do my work because all the books are at your fingertips, but everyone finds a routine that suits them. When I’m not working, I like to go running, go to evensong or just procrastinate with my friends. Next year I’m also hoping to try out coxing (all the fun of rowing, none of the exercise or blisters!). There is so much to get involved in whatever your hobby, and countless opportunities to try new things too.

My first half-year of Cambridge has been both more intense and more brilliant than I ever expected. My language abilities have improved no end and I’ve learnt such a lot. Don’t be deterred by the scary–sounding application process because it isn’t that bad and the unique experience that is Cambridge is worth it in the end!