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Cambridge or Durham?

(85 Posts)
whichuni95 Tue 08-Jan-13 19:01:42

I have been offered places at both Cambridge and Durham to study history (both of which I am thrilled about) and cannot decide between the two. This is obviously a lovely dilemma to have and I feel very privileged but it is still a very important decision which will affect the rest of my life.

I just found out about Cambridge and am still in a slight state of euphoric shock (but I have to decide within the next 48 hours because of other complicated reasons) so I am worried that I may feel flattered and excited into a potentially rash decision.

I first fell in love with Durham when I visited a year and a half ago at the beginning of 6th form and so feel a long term connection with it. I was dead set against oxbridge for years seeing it as elitist and only decided to apply at the last possible minute. I also honestly didn't think I stood a chance of getting in. So although I now really do love Cambridge as well, my attachment to it is of a different nature. I therefore can't help feeling, on one level, that I should go with my initial gut instinct and choose Durham.

I am someone who loves school and responds well to a challenge and so I think I would defiantly enjoy the intellectual rigor of Cambridge. I love the history course on offer there a ridiculous amount and was literally jumping out my seat with excitement at the prospect of taking some of the modules. But at the same time, the thought of working even harder than I am now for another 3 years is quite daunting for me. I can't help but feel that I am wasting my one chance at being young by locking myself in my room and (attempting to) write essays the vast majority of the time. I feel like with interviews and January and summer exams this whole year has been a constant stress which is fine (I know how privileged I am to even still be in education and to have all these opportunities) but I want to feel like all the work is in aid of letting the rest of my life begin, not in spending another three years doing an even more intense version of the same thing. I don't mind working hard, very hard even, at university as long as whilst I am there I also have more opportunities to see my friends and have fun! How much less work will Durham be than Cambridge? Is Cambridge as much hard work as I am anticipating? How do students at Cambridge manage to balance work with being young and having a good time?

I have this fantasy of being at university and waking up in the morning and all my friends are just there, watching E4 and eating beans on toast and we can all sit around together and have a laugh and be spontaneous. I have been told that being at Cambridge will be like a 9-5 job; you'll either be in lectures or you'll be in the library all day except for a couple of hours in the evening when you can sit in the bar for a bit and then you'll go to bed. Does anyone know if this is true and how realistic my fantasy is at either Cambridge or Durham?

I am not a massive night-club person but I am also definitely not a hermit. I am very sociable and do also want to have fun at uni. I am an only child and so am greatly looking forward to living with other young people. I am not sure whether this makes me more suited to Durham or Cambridge?

At the end of the day, despite all the work I do really love Cambridge. As already mentioned, I love the course, I love the style of learning there, I love the idea of having supervisions. The college I have applied to is perfect for me and I think it will be filled with like-minded people. It is also considerably bigger than the college I have applied to at Durham so there may well be more social events on offer and it had a really nice student bar/ JCR. I am really into acting and at Cambridge I would potentially have the chance of getting involved with footlights which would be amazing. I also feel that Durham is quite 'private school' (certainly more so than the college I have applied to at Cambridge). Does anyone know if this is true? Finally, if my life post-university doesn't go according to plan I don't want to live with a constant feeling of 'what if', if I turn the amazing opportunity of a place at Cambridge down.

I really don't know what to do. I am sorry this is basically an epic monologue but I am truly stuck. Any advice or experience would be much appreciated.

MordionAgenos Tue 08-Jan-13 19:05:26

Go to Cambridge. You said yourself that the course was making you jump out of your seat with excitement. Being at Cambridge is not at all like a 9-5 job.

StuffezLaBouche Tue 08-Jan-13 19:06:53

I can't speak at all for Cambridge, but as a Durham graduate and current resident, can I be the first to suggest you come here? smile
It's a lovely city, and an outstanding university. I know anything mI say can be countered with by a "but Cambridge has got..." etc. but this place is just wonderful and I won't be leaving any time soon.
I a not a clubby person either, but Durham has enough friendly pubs and bars to keep anyone going - with a handful of old man pubs which I, tragically, feel most at home.

Isabeller Tue 08-Jan-13 19:11:22

Friend's sister went to Durham and loved it (25yrs ago) she is v private school also v lovely.

DD was lucky enough to go to Cambridge and to stay for PhD now working at Anglia Ruskin. She had a great time, did work hard but also masses of good social life, college choir and lifelong friends. It's a great place, which college?

milktraylady Tue 08-Jan-13 19:12:59

I went to Edin uni- and its good reputation still looks good on my cv: ie
uni is only 3 (or 4) years but it will affect your employment opportunities for your whole future life.

More things to consider: at Cambridge the people you meet will be an amazing network in the future, the nightlife in Cambridge is rubbish, the college system & tutor time is unique & fantastic.

As a manager I would look more favourably at a CV where they went to Cambridge than Durham, sorry!

What a lovely dilemma to have OP, I think you are clearly clever and thoughtful, and you will have a great social life where ever you go.
Good luck!

VivaLeBeaver Tue 08-Jan-13 19:14:28

I know someone who went to Cambridge and she definitely had fun. Ys she worked hard but she's the sort of person who would have worked hard anywhere so I don't know how much was down to Cambridge itself. But she had time for concerts, etc.

Also if you really love the course on offer at Cambridge it will be less of a chore than perhaps fewer hours on a course at Durham.

People say that putting Cambridge on your cv opens more doors job wise. Not sure how true it is.

I've heard that some Durham halls are very private school in their atmosphere. There was a thread on here last year from a parent who's child was hating their halls due to this.

notnowImreading Tue 08-Jan-13 19:15:33

Go to Cambridge. Just being able to say you went on your CV will make a difference to you for the whole of your adult life. Take a big jumper - it gets really cold there. Probably not as cold as Durham.

LadyPeterWimsey Tue 08-Jan-13 19:19:02

From my student days and from knowing various students at both now: Durham is more private school; Cambridge is more mixed, and being bigger you can avoid any types you don't like and just hang out with the ones you do. Cambridge's system of learning, if it suits you, is amazing and I treasure the time I had studying there. It was incredibly challenging and stimulating. My brother loved Durham, and being a big fish in a small pond; I loved having both a college circle of friends and a whole university to mix in. And I know Durham is beautiful but so is Cambridge. And very few people I know spent all their time working - they wouldn't have offered you a place if they thought you were going to struggle so much you would have to work all the time to keep up.

Go to Cambridge! (which college?)

whichuni95 Tue 08-Jan-13 19:19:56

Thanks so much everyone. Really helpful so far. So amazing to have so many replies so quickly!!! If anyone else has any opinions or advice it would also be much appreciated. I need all the advice I can get!

Also just to clarify, not sure if I made this clear, I would prefer the uni that was less 'private school' (don't mean to offend anyone by this comment, just wasn't sure if i'd made it clear in my original post)

breatheslowly Tue 08-Jan-13 19:20:14

Cambridge is not at all like working 9-5. The historians I knew spent a lot of time mooching about. Durham is a very academic university, the workload is likely to be similar (but I haven't been to both). If you enjoyed the rigour of the interviews (if you take out the make or break element) then you will enjoy supervisions. Cambridge terms are very short compared to some universities, so you do have to cram a lot in at times, but can relax or get a job in the holidays. I don't know if this is true for Durham.

StuffezLaBouche Tue 08-Jan-13 19:25:06

Durham CAN be very "rah" but it wholly depends on what college you end up in. Mine was extremely "normal" and I enjoyed it hugely.

MordionAgenos Tue 08-Jan-13 19:25:16

It is absolutely true that having Cambridge on your CV is like playing the joker. Or even better. My experience of Cambridge was that is was very very egalitarian. The only people I know who went to Durham, were from posh schools. The historians I knew (one of them was a close friend from school) had a whale of a time there - one of them is now an impossibly glam showbiz type and he spent his entire life, as far as I could tell, directing, writing and performing in plays and shows.

StuffezLaBouche Tue 08-Jan-13 19:26:28

Yes, breathe, the Durham terms are also short. Also, should you need to get a PT job while studying, you are permitted at Durham. I DID hear you aren't at Oxbridge, but am willing to be correct on that one.

Milliways Tue 08-Jan-13 19:26:28

My DD had offers from both. See chose Cambridge and graduated last Summer. Yes, it was extremely tough going at times, but she also had an amazing time, went to Theatre, concerts, debates, garden parties and balls. Captained a college sports team, became an Access Officer, met her husband and made many many friends for life.

Applying for jobs from Cambridge is easier than from many other institutions too, and having her degree from there should continue to help in her future.

MordionAgenos Tue 08-Jan-13 19:36:27

I always worked when I was at Cambridge. I don't know if they have banned it since.

rotavirusrita Tue 08-Jan-13 19:52:28

Cambridge. I didnt work during term but did during the very long holidays to make up for it. It wasnt a problem to work during holidays iirc but terms are only up to 8 weeks long so not a problem.

rotavirusrita Tue 08-Jan-13 19:56:05

Which college btw <just nosey>

alreadytaken Tue 08-Jan-13 20:35:41

why not ask on the Student Room website rather than a parenting site when any experience is likely to be years out of date? Can't see why you'd need to decide within 48 hours so the whole thing sounds fake.

FWIW someone who went to Durham a few years ago claimed to be the only one without an estate but had a great time. Cambridge would not have so many societies if it was all work and no play.

OpheliasWeepingWillow Tue 08-Jan-13 20:37:58

Cambridge. Flexibility, intellectual rigour, no way 9-5 but if turns out that way is no worse than a job, The Backs, punts, willows...

Am biased as I went to Cambridge and have never been to Durham but would not have missed for the world.

whichuni95 Tue 08-Jan-13 21:06:23

Thanks again everyone. I have applied to Kings College at Cambridge.

OpheliasWeepingWillow Tue 08-Jan-13 21:11:51

Oooh. Kings v egalitarian, good bar, on the river.

VivaLeBeaver Tue 08-Jan-13 21:13:16

My friend went to kings.

Trills Tue 08-Jan-13 21:13:58

Go to Cambridge.

Trills Tue 08-Jan-13 21:14:09

(too late I see smile )

BlackandGold Tue 08-Jan-13 21:17:50

Cambridge - it will always impress employers on your CV and open a lot of doors in the future.

Mind you, DS had places at both Durham and Cambridge and turned them both down for UCL..........he never regretted it though.

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