Clare College Cambridge


Rowan Douglas


Initially, I applied for Chinese Studies, which is offered at the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies department. While my interviews weren’t exactly what are to be expected when applying for linguistics, my advice would be the same. Don’t worry! The interview process seems really daunting, but your interviewer is honestly trying to find out what you do know, not what you don’t. I was lucky enough to receive interview technique practice at my school, but in reality, I don’t think it was necessary. My interviews turned out to be just like conversations. The interviewer wants to know how your brain works so that they can work out if they can teach you when you get here, it’s not about knowing everything already!

Clare is a great college, and its location is very convenient. In your first year, you’ll live right by the Sidgwick Site where Linguistics lectures tend to be, so you hopefully won’t have too many early mornings.

I enjoyed my first two years of Chinese Studies, but was really inspired by the optional Linguistics module I did in my second year. It was the first year ‘Structures and Meanings’ course, and I was immediately hooked. I really enjoyed the way it looked critically into language, and the group supervisions gave me the freedom and comfort to explore my ideas, as well as those of my peers and supervisor.

After a lot of difficult deliberation, I eventually made the decision to change Tripos from Chinese to Linguistics. The process of changing is relatively straightforward, as long as you can show that you have legitimate reasons for wanting to switch. I was initially sad to leave Chinese behind, but am so happy to have moved across to Linguistics.

This year has been truly fascinating. I started the course at Part II level, so had free choice of my modules. If you start in first year, you will all do the same four modules: Sounds and Words; Structures and Meaning; Language, Brain and Society; History and Varieties of English. I do four modules; the first year Sounds and Words paper, Semantics and Pragmatics, History of English, and a paper about Latin and Bilingualism, borrowed from Classics. I really enjoyed having such a wide range of papers to choose from as it meant I could choose the things I was particularly interested in. I loved Latin and Greek at school, so the borrowed paper from Classics was an added bonus!

The Linguistics timetable is fairly free, and you definitely won’t have as many contact hours as your science or medicine counterparts, but you’ll still be busy. In first year, you’ll have lectures and supervisions for each of your modules pretty much every week. The schedule changes slightly in second year, but it’s nothing to worry about. The Linguistics department has lots of information sessions so you always know what you need to be doing when.

I try to fit in as many extra-curricular activities as I can, and there’s so much to choose from at Cambridge. I’ve absolutely loved my time here and I really don’t want it to come to an end. Don’t let fear of the application process put you off. It does all seem a bit daunting, but trust me, there truly is something for everyone here, and you will settle in before you know it.