Cambridge - some general advice please

(36 Posts)
alreadytaken Fri 08-Mar-13 16:10:34

After some reasonable January module results it looks like I might have a medical student there later in the year. So - any advice from parents of students (not only medical students) already there? In particular did they take/buy a bike and if so can you leave it around in the holidays without it vanishing?

Trills Fri 08-Mar-13 16:12:59

Yes most definitely take or buy a bike. Most colleges will have "secure" bike parking.

alreadytaken Fri 08-Mar-13 16:16:51

presumably its best not to have anything too tempting? Is there a good source at Cambridge rather than transporting it there? The car may be a bit laden anyway and we'd have to buy something to carry one.

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Fri 08-Mar-13 16:18:23

There are several good, independent bike shops in Cambridge. I would buy one here rather than transport.

amouseinawindmill Fri 08-Mar-13 16:22:11

Agree: buy one in Cambridge. Something secondhand and a bit battered to avoid theft. Shabby seems to be de rigeur for student bikes. But buy the best lock you can. And lights.

alreadytaken Fri 08-Mar-13 16:35:46

thanks, Any other useful suggestions - things to take, or leave behind? If shabby is de rigeur for bikes does that apply to everything else you take with you? Do people keep to restrictions on what you are supposed to have in your room/set?

Sympathique Sat 09-Mar-13 11:00:45

Well done to the medical student!

Unless you're from overseas, you generally have to clear your room each term (colleges use them for conferences in the vacs) unless you live out of college (that can mean college houses tho' 1st years aren't usually in those). There is some storage but overseas students get preference of course. Although some home students come by public transport, it must be difficult cf. last century because of increasing amounts of STUFF they seem to need. Almost everyone seems to have a computer and some take printers for convenience, a lot of colleges require you to supply bedding, and so on. Self-catering facilities and college food vary too.

Question to mumsnetters: Does anyone 'freight' luggage? We used to do that - via rail or road.

Best course is to email the college and/or its JCR. Ah - you seem to have a set of restrictions so I guess you are well informed on that score. What sort of things do they tell you NOT to take?

If you're thinking of stuff to take, be aware that some colleges are a total bugger to do the drop off/pick up bit. Some colleges have parking that you can use while your son takes his stuff out of a car, but others don't, and you may end up trying to find a place on the street (which is a nightmare in Cambridge), or trailing a very long way. Or, he might go down on the train/bus. Either way, it's good to pack light.

He won't need as much cooking equipment as most students, because Cambridge students are expected to eat in their college dining room - food is usually subsidized and therefore cheap, but it's not usually an option to self-cater. So, he'll have perhaps a few boiling rings and a microwave in a little shared kitchen. It's good to have a kettle in his room, a pan for making pasta/heating beans, and some cutlery/glasses, but not much more.

I know that's very specific but it's useful to know while you're thinking about 'stuff'!

RussiansOnTheSpree Sat 09-Mar-13 11:27:30

LRD - it depends what college you are at. Several do not have archaic 'dining' rules. I never ate in hall in all the time I was there. Not least because they didn't really provide vegan food at my college (I imagine that has changed).

Ahh, that's good to know. I'm so sorry - I didn't know of any colleges that provided a proper kitchen.

In that case, OP, it might be worth checking. The reason I posted was because kitchen equipment tends to be heavy and bulky, so no point buying it if it isn't going to be used.

FWIW, I didn't eat in halls either, because I like cooking at I couldn't cope with the noise (I've got a migraine issue which is a lot better now). So it sticks in my mind pretty vividly, what a pain it was carting about all these pots and pans and trying to cook in a tiny kitchen shared with too many people! grin

RussiansOnTheSpree Sat 09-Mar-13 11:35:59

I'm not saying the kitchens were great! wink Especially after I set one on fire one time blush

What I did was buy my own cooking gear once I had sussed out the territory. Until I arrived at college I didn't know what hall I was in and the facilities were quite variable between them (I'd been on a summer course and stayed in one more modern bit but we'd been given the unvarnished tour and seen some of the more rancid/character-ful bits too). As someone who self catered the entire time I got away with owning - a toaster (I could have used the grill in the kitchen but, you know....toast is LIFE); a wok; one pan; a kettle. I did have my own in room fridge in the third year, I inherited it from the previous occupant. While I was there fridge ownership went from being very unusual to a normal thing - there was a roaring trade in second hand fridges. grin

Trills Sat 09-Mar-13 11:36:12

I went to a college with very archaic dining rules. smile

RussiansOnTheSpree Sat 09-Mar-13 11:37:44

Trills - my sympathies. grin The ability to self cater was my main criterion for college selection actually - life as a vegan in the 80s was much harder than it is nowadays.

Gruntfuttocks Sat 09-Mar-13 11:39:04

Dropping off can be a nightmare due to restricted space in college. The first time we went, DS went up ahead a few days before and checked in to college with overnight bag. We arrived with luggage at weekend, peak time, literally drove in to the college, threw bags out of car and drove out again.
Nowadays he often arrives a few days early (probably not possible for a fresher). I usually drive up, stay overnight in a hotel and then come home - too far for a comfortable daytrip. We usually go to college fairly late in the evening when all is quiet to drop off luggage.
DS started with a single saucepan and a tin-opener, and gradually added to his kit. He has a lockable cupboard in the mini-kitchen where he leaves cooking stuff in the holidays, and a biggish lockable cupboard in his room. Didn't have this last year, but as he was heavily involved in college theatre he managed to find space there to store a lot of stuff!!
DS loathes bikes but they are indeed a universal means of transport in Cambridge. College has a secure bike park where many students leave theirs in holidays. Definitely buy when you arrive and perhaps sell on when you leave?!
Definitely worth thinking about how DC is going to manage and store lecture notes and textbooks. DS is mathmo, and seems to do almost everything on computer, including taking and storing all notes. When I was a medical student I accumulated a ridiculous number of books and papers - I dare say a kindle / iPad could take care of a lot of that nowadays.

Btw, I got through my whole time at Cambridge (four years) without a bike. My dad insisted I take one up in my first year, it was promptly nicked and dumped in the Cam (nice), and I walked. I have also lived in Oxford for the last five years without a bike, despite it being a 'bike' city. It is perfectly possible to do this and plenty of students do.

If you do send him up with a bike, make sure he's aware it is a busy, traffic-full city. Red lights mean stop, and pavements are for pedestrians, and car drivers can be wankers.

I'm sure he doesn't need to be told that and I'm sure you don't, but I can't help saying it because it is quite a dangerous city to bike in, and it's worth being aware.

Trills Sat 09-Mar-13 11:48:55

I wouldn't say that "Cambridge is a dangerous city to cycle in".

I would say "It's dangerous to cycle in cities" in general, but at least n Cambridge the car drivers are wankers who know that there are likely to be bikes around, as opposed to many cities where the car drivers don't ever consider the possibility of a bike being in their vicinity.

alreadytaken Sat 09-Mar-13 11:49:16

haven't really looked at the restrictions in detail but I think they were suggesting kettles in rooms were out. I don't think they'll be doing a lot of cooking, although they are being forced to learn some basics grin. Thank you for the tips about unloading. We haven't visited the college yet (they went on the train) but I suspect it will be an issue with lots of families arriving. I think they will need bedding and they'll definitely have their laptop. Seems to be more need for stuff than when we went to university although some of it is at least smaller.

Although they have been very good about travelling light for things like DofE this time I suspect they'll want some familiar things - and all their clothes.

Trills Sat 09-Mar-13 11:53:24

I didn't have a bike in my first year but then acquired one - how important it is depends on where your college is relative to your faculty and whether you plan to take part in any sports.

If he's at Downing or Pembroke or Christ's he'll be a short stroll from most of the biology-ish buildings, if he's at Churchill or Fitzwilliam or Robinson it's a bit different. All of the sports grounds are out of town by a mile or two (unless he's at Jesus), and if he decides to take up rowing then there's no chance of getting from the river to a 9am lecture without a bike.

Fair point, trills.

already - oh, god, I can't see 'no kettles in rooms' working! grin

It's only an 8-week term, so I reckon if there's anything he suddenly decides is an absolute necessity from home, he can probably hang on until next term for it.

Trills Sat 09-Mar-13 11:54:04

No kettles! Everyone had kettles!

exexpat Sat 09-Mar-13 11:54:27

Old, basic bikes are best - you don't need anything fancy with many gears because Cambridge is so flat (unless you are at Girton). A bike basket is very handy.

I think everyone needs a computer these days. A good laptop is probably essential, but I am currently a (very mature) student again and I am finding my iPad very useful indeed - light enough to carry round all day, you can use it for taking notes in lectures (a Bluetooth keyboard is useful - easier than typing on the touch screen), but also a lot of course materials are distributed electronically these days, as are academic journal articles, and it is much easier downloading and reading them on an iPad than on a computer screen. I'd also recommend a Dropbox account to make it easy to move files around different locations.

I was vegetarian so tended to avoid eating in college, but luckily my rooms always had basic shared cooking facilities. Saucepan, wok, chopping board, a decent knife, wooden soon, spatula and something to drain pasta with would probably be enough to start with. Kettle and mugs for in your room are also essential.

SCOTCHandWRY Sat 09-Mar-13 11:56:24

Ds is Oxford medic, rules are pretty much the same tho - rooms cleared in holidays, most colleges have somewhere you can leave bikes, and sometimes a trunk room where some things can be left in short holidays. Storage lockers are really expensive, so we've found it cheaper to use Dhl shipping boxes, 2 or 3 size7 boxes to ship what he can't carry on the train. Size 7 is £20.

creamteas Sat 09-Mar-13 12:01:58

I have found that the amount of equipment needed has gone down rather than up. It used to be that you needed a Desktop Computer, TV, stereo etc but now a laptop can do all of this!

alreadytaken Sat 09-Mar-13 12:10:26

think a bike is going to be necessary for sport - and the kit is quite chunky, I'd forgotten that but they won't. Might need those DHL boxes for anything they forget grin. We probably will stay overnight the first time so throwing them out to make friends then unloading in the evening sounds good.

Gruntfuttocks Sat 09-Mar-13 12:42:39

Be prepared to be dismissed fairly quickly. I was devastated the first time we dropped off and my presence was clearly not required. Better since, and I even get introduced to friends very occasionally.....

boomting Sat 09-Mar-13 14:15:54

To be honest I'd always recommend taking a bike to uni. Not at Cambridge, but I took one to uni after the first term and have never looked back.

With regards to the holidays and bikes, it is possible to take a bike on a train, as i have done on multiple occasions, but do check the bike policy of the relevant train company. Two decent panniers (Ortliebs in my case; 40L capacity in total) and I can fit everything that I need for the holidays on the back of my bike - and I'm a girl who isn't known for packing light!

sandripples Sun 10-Mar-13 18:02:20

DD graduated from Cambridge 18 months ago - terrible cooking facilities in college. She had 2-3 bikes as yes they do get nicked unless you have really good D lock. She had a good time and got a good degree. Dropping off was very well organised - think it does depend on the college. Her's provided duvets.

georgettemagritte Mon 11-Mar-13 04:07:24

Really really depends on the college as to what stuff they need/how much stuff they are allowed. I'd have to say that actually there's been a trend for less and less stuff. I was up in the mid-90s at a college where we had big rooms and were basically allowed to practically refurnish the whole place ourselves - rugs, pictures, chairs, futons, fridges, sandwich toasters, rice cookers, fairy lights, ornaments, giant blocky computers and printers, TVs, throws, cushions, candles everywhere, full sets of plates and cooking equipment, the lot - there was even a fashion for making your own curtains. My parents hated taking me up at the start of the term! I'm an academic now (at a different college....) but what students can and do bring has reduced a lot. Some of this is changing fashions and equipment and so on: computer equipment is much lighter and smaller, can watch TV on laptop rather than bringing one, etc. Some is increased rules on health and safety - my current college won't let students bring furniture, fairy lights, candles, soft furnishings, or their own kettles, fridges, toasters etc. any more for fire safety reasons. Some colleges have very small gyp rooms and the culture is to eat in hall; also Cam council kitchen safety regs changes mean that colleges had to remove ovens from most gyp rooms/student kitchens a few years ago, so they can cook less now than they used to. The students seem less interested in stuff now, too - they just don't seem to bring as much any more! Plus anything you need can be ordered cheaply online or from the supermarkets and delivered to the college nowadays - a far cry from the time when Cambridge had hardly any shops. I think the best option is to bring only essentials until he really knows what he needs and what the college allows. Plus first year rooms are often very small and term is short! Agree too that most colleges now rent out student rooms for conferences during the vac, so there may be little or no storage between terms.

Yes, easy to get a bike in Cambridge (don't forget helmet....) I also have never had a bike though. Definitely possible to walk instead, unless you're at one of the really outlying colleges. I have never ridden a bike here as (as LRD says) it is not a very safe cycling city and traffic accidents with bikes are very common. I've seen a few nasty ones myself, enough not to want to cycle at all (but then I don't need to get to outlying colleges/departments often)

HermioneE Mon 11-Mar-13 04:32:45

Surprised by the comments saying it's not a safe cycling city. I'd rather cycle in Cambridge than anywhere else, sheer force of numbers means drivers are more aware of cyclists. And I've been knocked off by a car before so I don't think my view is too rose-tinted smile

notcitrus Mon 11-Mar-13 08:19:09

It's probably safer than most places to cycle, but there are black spots like Queens Road and Silver Street, where a student seems to get killed every couple of years. My pathology prof was in a right state after having to do the post mortems.

I rarely used my bike after the first year, as the hassle of unlocking and then locking in central Cambridge took more extra time than walking, but it was handy for getting to Lensfield Road for physiology etc lectures (with medics).

Trills Mon 11-Mar-13 09:16:37

I wonder if we can find some stats on deaths/injuries from cycling per mile cycled.

alreadytaken Mon 11-Mar-13 11:16:01

thanks. If they take a bike I'll make sure there is both a helmet and a reflective belt, although that would probably never be worn. Might let them try a term without one and see how it goes.

Yellowtip Mon 11-Mar-13 11:47:48

You're right, helmet and reflective belt are likely to be a complete waste of money smile

Trills Mon 11-Mar-13 11:53:14

LIGHTS on the other hand, are vital. And lots of spare batteries.

Yellowtip Mon 11-Mar-13 12:27:18

Agree Trills esp since last winter the police in Oxford had a crackdown on riders of bikes with no lights and charged something like £50 a time.

I think of Cambridge as being dangerous because I heard about accidents all the time, but trills is doubtless right that this may not be a high figure given how much people cycle and how many cylists there are. However, I wasn't just thinking of cars when I said I thought it was dangerous. A lot of other cyclists are awful - no lights, no sense of red lights, etc. My brother was knocked off his bike by another cyclist who didn't give way, and they were both going at a clip so both smashed their bikes up badly but fortunately didn't land in the path of a car, which they easily might have done.

Any big city is probably a bit scary. My original post was just to say that bikes aren't always a necessity if you're a bit nervous (or if he is), but it sounds as if that is not the case. smile

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