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2016-17: Year in Review

The conclusion of the Orientation trip to the Lake District brings with it a moment for reflection and contemplation. For one, it is the culmination of months of work on a massive project which now leaves space to focus on new tasks. For another, it marks twelve months since I moved to Cambridge from Australia, and had an opportunity to reset a lot of parts of my life. Hence, it is a good opportunity to reflect on the many crazy things that have happened to me over the past twelve months.

Arrival

Arriving in Cambridge, I was coming to a city where I knew nobody and nobody knew me. I would have to make friends quickly. Fortunately for me, the day after I arrived was the Gates Induction Day, where I quickly started to form bonds with many other fellow Gates Scholars. These were cemented during our subsequent Orientation trip to Ambleside in the Lake District, where we bonded over rock climbing, kayaking and dancing, leaving us all very exhausted by the end. Over the following few weeks, I would need to check into my department, find my way around my college, go through the safety inductions for the University and the lab, sort out my banking, deposit my maintenance cheque, and purchase all of the essential cooking supplies, and most excitingly, buy myself (and others) a brand new bike. In the middle of it all, I caught the ever-present fresher’s flu, try the various college fresher’s week events, examine the societies at the fresher’s fair, and went out to see a play with a bunch of my new Gates friends.

Academics

The primary purpose for coming to Cambridge was to pursue a PhD in Physics. All of the other activities besides, the academics is the most important one. Over the course of the year, I submitted and published my first academic paper. I first submitted it to the arXiv, the physics pre-print server, in October after ironing out a few kinks. I submitted it to the journal JCAP shortly thereafter. However, I noticed a tiny error in my code after I had submitted it that changed the results in a highly non-trivial way. So as I was responding to the referee’s comments, I needed to re-run a lot of code that I had written on a new server, which required a lot of frustrating troubleshooting. Eventually, though, I resubmitted my paper and it was accepted and published in March.

Since then, my focus has been on a new project with a new supervisor involving Higgsinos. I had to spend a month or two reading through textbooks on supersymmetry to get myself up to speed with the mathematics and concepts. Hence, I spent a lot of time working through proofs to convince myself why everything had to be as it was. Next, I tried to take what I had learned and applied it to the particular model we were considering. There are a number of calculations that we aim to complete, and I tried to gauge how they would turn out be doing much of it by hand, but it got incredibly complicated, and now I have to resort to a computer to do it. The problem remains to be able to convince the computer to do the calculations themselves, which, once it gets going, will mean I will get a lot of results in a relatively quick period of time.

As the end of the year approached, one of the tasks that befalls all first year PhD students is to write a first year report. The first year report summarises all that a student has accomplished in the first year, and outlines what they plan to do next. While in some subjects, the first year report is incredibly lengthy, in physics and mathematics it is rather short. Both fields pride themselves in being able to succinctly present idea through formulae rather than having to mount wordy expositional arguments. Hence, my report was much shorter than many of my friends, but required a fair amount of effort nonetheless. After I had submitted it, I had to do a viva, defending my report to two other academics in the department. While it was a tough session, they gave me some useful feedback to put to the rest of my work.

Away from the studies, my academic development continued with a bit of teaching and courses during my Michelmas term. I taught practical sessions to the Part IB students (second year undergraduates). It turned out to be more time intensive than I had anticipated; the practical sessions were long and required a fair bit of preparation and marking. The practicals themselves were mostly electronics based, which I had done a fair bit of in my undergraduate. I also attended some Part III lecture courses on theoretical physics, which were on gravity, cosmology and group theory.

I attended two conferences during the year. The first was the YTF9 conference in Durham. YTF9 was a two day conference geared at PhD students and early career post-docs. I gave a brief talk on my paper that I had submitted, which was right at the end of the conference. The second conference was the DAνCo conference in Odense, Denmark. DAνCo focused on the intersection between dark matter and neutrino physics, and stretched over a whole week. I spent much of the week catching up with Andre and Ankit, who had come all the way over form Adelaide.

Even though academic life is the most important, it is often the most mundane part of my time in Cambridge. Often it simply involves riding in to the department, doing handwritten mathematics, reading papers or writing and running computer code, then heading home again. It is always there, in the background, even if it does not feature prominently in my lifestyle. Every Wednesday involves a group meeting, followed by a group lunch at the food vans.

Cambridge Culture

Cambridge has a unique university culture unlike anywhere else in the world, barring Oxford. There are many bizarre and/or unique traditions that can only exist in an institution over 800 years old. Perhaps the most unique is the college system. There are 31 colleges in Cambridge, and almost every student and academic is attached to one of them. My college is Darwin College, one of the newer colleges, and one of the few graduate-only colleges. Being graduate-only has its perks and disadvantages, but on the whole it can make it seem a little more mature and informal than some, but not all, of the other colleges. For example, at the college welcome dinner, I inadvertently sat next to the Master of the college and had a pleasant conversation with her. I also inadvertently ate lunch with a former master one summers afternoon.

Personally, my main interaction with the college beyond accommodation is culinary. It has not been uncommon to eat my lunch or dinner in the college dining hall, or to visit another college’s dining hall. Darwin College consistently has excellent food, which contrasts sharply to certain other colleges. On weekends, despite there being no dinner available, there is a traditional English Brunch and on Sundays there is a traditional English Sunday Roast. Over the course of the year, I savoured the Sunday roast many times, often inviting friends over for a little socialisation. It is also not uncommon to catch up with people at DarBar, famed as one of the best college bars in Cambridge.

Almost all colleges host formal halls throughout the terms. These are often three course dinners, where guests often, but not always, have to wear formal wear, i.e. a suit or dress, and their academic gown. It is very common to try and attend other college’s formal halls. In addition to several formals at Darwin, I have also attended dinners at Christ’s, Churchill, Corpus Christi, Jesus, Homerton, Newnham, Pembroke, Trinity and Trinity Hall, and am looking to attend more in the coming years.

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One of my favourite Cambridge traditions has been to go punting down the river Cam. Members of my college have unlimited use of one of our five punts. Over the warmer months, it was not uncommon at all to take a group of people out on the water. When people were punting for the first time, it was my preferred option to take them down-river past all of the old colleges. Return trip, this usually took just over an hour. However, when people have punted before, I like to go up the river, over the spillway and south towards Grantchester. Usually, we have to turn around by the meadows, but it quickly gets out of the city and into rural, green fields. It is a great place for a picnic. To get further, I have also hired kayaks with Jacqueline and gone up and down river, though the Darwin kayaks have a tendency to spin out when you aren’t careful. I’ve also been for swim in the Cam on a warm summers day.

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Also on the water are the bumps rowing races. Not wanting to commit to the time schedule of the rowing teams, I resigned to watching from the banks of the river. Over a number of days in the spring, the college rowing teams line up along the river and race upstream back to town. As the river is only wide enough for two boats, all one has to do is catch up to the boat in front, a so-called “bump”, and then both boats pull over and switch starting positions come the next race. It was great fun to watch from the shores of the river.

Continuing the theme of university sport, Annalise and I made it down to Twickenham to see the annual Varsity Rugby match, one of the more popular university sporting fixtures in the UK, but which pales in comparison to college sport in the US. We saw Cambridge chalk up their first Varsity Rugby win for a number of years, which made the event just that more exciting. More sedately, I’ve had the privilege of playing croquet on the lawns of Jesus, and being invited to walk across the grass at King’s College.

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Travel

Being in Europe for an extended period of time meant that, over the course of the year, I was able to take a few breaks and see some of the diverse continent. Cambridge can feel a little cramped at times, so it is often good to get out a little bit. Over the course of the year, I travelled around both the East Anglia region, the country of the United Kingdom and the continent of Europe.

I was in Cambridge for the majority of Michelmas term, briefly heading out to Leeds Castle in Kent at the end for the Gates Term Trip. When my parents visited over Christmas, we headed out as a family to Bletchley Park, where Alan Turing cracked the Enigma code, and to Oxford, to see the other old collegiate University. They probably had a better library, but my tribalism convinced me that Cambridge was better on the whole. We headed down to Salisbury to see the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge, something I recommend to anybody staying the winter in the UK, as it is the best value for visiting the monument in terms of both money and experience. Despite the cold, early morning, we got to walk in and around the stones along with hundreds of other perplexed tourists and spiritual practitioners. Together with my parents, we also celebrated the New Year in the shadow of Big Ben on the edge of the Thames.

My 2017 began with a trip to Mallorca, Spain, with my bike, and was quickly followed with a trip to Durham in North England for the YTF9 conference, where I gave a short talk on my recent project. I headed north again, at the beginning of May to Sheffield, for the Tour de Yorkshire. My other cycling trip was to head to France to see the Tour de France in the Alps and Paris. I also got to explore a bit of France away from the bike, which included a trip to Monet’s garden in Giverny.

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Over a series of brunches, Krittika, Jacqueline, Annalise, Paul and I somehow got together to go on a short holiday to Bulgaria. The exact details on how that particular group formed, and why we chose Bulgaria, were not entirely clear, it just seemed to coalesce. Bulgaria was an amazing place. We were based in the city of Sofia, but made a day trip out to Plovdiv. The highlight was when the five of us went on a horse riding tour together in the mountains near Plovdiv. Each of the horses had their own personalities, and each of us had varying levels of adeptness at riding and controlling our horses. We only had one of us fall off, with no injuries, and we got up to a gallop at times. We rode out to an old monastery and explored the wild hillsides. Back in Sofia we took a seemingly ancient public bus up to a mountain monastery, visited a communist history museum, went on a walking tour, and enjoyed the delicious food that was so hard to come by in the UK.

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In the summer, Jacqueline, Krittika, Annalise and headed north to Scotland (Paul had returned to the US by this point). We spent a few days in Edinburgh, heading to a few shows at the Fringe. During a show of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”, Annalise and I were invited on stage to provide sound effects to the performers, and Jacqueline was taken on stage to have a song sung about her. We also toured around Scotland for a bit, heading to the traditional Highland Games at North Berwick, before heading for the Highlands proper, highlighted by a visit to Cairn Gorm Mountain and the Edradour Distillery.

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I toured around parts of East Anglia too. Over Easter, Jacqueline and I went to Knebworth house, which was hosting a jousting tournament, in addition to being a beautiful manor house. Sick of the Cambridge city, I went hiking with Jacqueline through Thetford Forest in Suffolk. In the summer, we made a trip to Berney Arms in Norfolk, the most remote railway station in the UK. From there, we walked to the seaside resort of Great Yarmouth, on the Norfolk coast. Along the way, Jacqueline had an allergic reaction to the long grasses, and by the end she had come out in hives. Annalise, Jacqueline and I also made a somewhat impromptu trip to Ely and its cathedral, after deciding to extend what had been a casual bike ride and picnic to that point. The Easter Gates Term trip also headed out to Canterbury in Kent, to see another cathedral and university city.

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Some of the travel has been in and around London as well. Some of the highlights have included ice skating in Alexandra Palace, and a visit to the world heritage listed Kew Gardens, brunch at Kensington Palace, seeing the Royal Shakespeare Company’s “Much Ado About Nothing“, a map exhibition at the British Library, watching the world championships race-walking or the London-Surrey Classic on the Mall, celebrating Canada Day in Trafalgar Square, in addition to numerous Proms, musicals and just cycling around.

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At the end of the summer, I headed over to Denmark for the DAνCo conference in Odense. Before the conference, I hit up the sights of Copenhagen on a bike tour. I spent the week of the conference hanging out with Andre and Ankit, who were friends from back in Adelaide. Once the conference was over, I met Jacqueline at Legoland Billund, and we had a fun weekend getaway exploring both the theme park and Aarhus and Vejle in Jutland.

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Sport and Health

One of my goals when moving to Cambridge to start my PhD was to reset my work-life balance and improve my general health. The balance was very one-sided during my honours year, tending to work long hours, and eat too great a quantity of food. Moving to a new city and establishing a new routine provided a good opportunity to reset. Structurally, Cambridge is much more suited to living healthy than my life was back in Adelaide. The compactness of the city combined with the local bike culture subtends itself to cycling as the main method of getting around. Most of my journeys are done on my bike or walking, whereas in Adelaide, the hour long commute to the centre of the city meant that I was spending a lot of time driving and hence sitting down. With over an hour and a half less commuting time, there is much more time in my lifestyle for exercise, socialising and rest.

The ease of commuting also helped me eat less as well. For much of the year, I’ve been eating my dinners in the Darwin College dining hall, which has rather strict opening hours, meaning I have to leave my department at a sociable hour to eat dinner, rather than grabbing something on the go and something else when I get home near midnight. The combination of more regular exercise and better dietary choices has helped me lose over ten kilograms of weight since I moved to Cambridge, and my general health has improved over that time as well.

Also in Cambridge, I’ve taken the opportunity to get involved in structured and unstructured sporting activity. In Michaelmas term, I got rather involved in the association football scene at my college. This meant an hour training in the bitter cold every Wednesday afternoons, and at least one full length match on the weekends. I had picked it up again as something that I used to do in high school and my early undergraduate years. I also nominated myself to referee football games, something I also used to do before I broke my leg in 2013. That meant that, through Michaelmas, I was often running for two or three full length football games over the course of a weekend. The refereeing often paid well as well. Over the course of the term, I played or refereed at most of the college sports grounds in Cambridge. Darwin doesn’t have any sports grounds of its own, being a relatively young and compact college, so that meant that every game was at a different ground. Hence, I got to tour most of the different facilities and experience as many different ones as I could. By Christmas, I had been to Churchill, Downing, Girton, Gonville & Caius, King’s and Selwyn (combined), Pembroke, Queen’s and Robinson (combined), St John’s and Trinity Hall. In addition, I visited some other non-college grounds, such as the North Cambridge Academy. I am still yet to visit Clare and Clare Hall and Peterhouse (combined), Corpus Christi, Emmanuel, Fitzwilliam and Murray Edwards (combined), Homerton, Jesus, Newnham, St Catharine’s and Trinity. A few colleges don’t have sports grounds, or share with other colleges, including Christ’s, Hughes Hall, Lucy Cavendish, Magdalene, Sidney Sussex, St Edmund’s and Wolfson.

Football didn’t continue quite so much into the Lent term, so I tried a few other things. I went to a few of the Darwin College Cricket Club’s training sessions, but there wasn’t enough interest at the College to get a full team together and organise any games. I also tried a little bit of social squash out at Churchill College.

The sport that I finally settled on came somewhat out of the blue. Since late April, I picked up Real Tennis, and have been played 29 matches to date, averaging one and a half games per week. Coming to Cambridge, I wasn’t anticipating picking up the sport; indeed I was hardly aware that it even existed. But I rode my bike past the courts every day on the way to work, and had been wondering about it in the back of my mind. During our trip to Bulgaria, Annalise had mentioned a flyer for a try out session. Krittika and I went along (Annalise was in New Zealand at the time), and really enjoyed it. Together with Jacqueline, the four of us signed up to the club and have been going to regular games ever since. I’ve kitted myself out with a racquet and the the traditional white clothing, common to many English sports.

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The game itself is rather unique. It is a precursor to the more modern, more famous, lawn tennis, played on a highly specialised indoor court. There are 44 such courts remaining in the world, including 27 in the United Kingdom, 10 in the United States, 5 in Australia and 2 in France. Two of the courts are in Cambridge. Three of the side walls have veranda-like sloping roofs, called penthouses. Below each of the penthouses are a number of openings, with different rules about what happens when the ball is hit into it. Along the fourth side is a large, straight wall, except for a slight kink, called the tambour, which juts out at an angle, making balls played off it very difficult to return. Being such an unusual sport has been one of the motivations to keep improving. Because so few people play, it is really easy to get to a decent level. After four months of play, I am ranked about 3800 in the world of active players, and about 400 of active Australian players. Krittika and Jacqueline are the top two Canadian women in the world at the sport.

Since starting, I’ve participated as a ring-in for a number of games in the Cambridge League; the weekly round robin tournament, and the Champagne League, the summer knock-out tournament. With term starting again soon, there will be many more opportunities for matches. The Cambridge Doubles League runs through Michelmas Term, there will be the Graduate Cup: a knockout tournament for all levels, category tournaments: single day knockout tournaments for different levels of player, plus the opportunity to travel to other courts across the UK.

I have also done a fair bit of cycling around Cambridge and Europe, continuing on my involvement with the sport from my life back in Adelaide. Cycling in Cambridgeshire is both a blessing and a curse; the density of roads per square kilometre is much higher compared to Adelaide, so there are many more different permutations of routes to ride. However, the countryside is much flatter, so it is difficult to challenge oneself to the best parts of riding a bike; conquering climbs. I have made do, though. There are many railway stations within a decent riding distance from Cambridge. Heading for a railway station doubles the distance from home I can ride, as I can just take a train back home when I get there, as opposed to looping around and riding back on familiar roads. I’ve tried to visit as many stations in Cambridgeshire and surrounds as possible, cycling through blazing sunshine and icy snow. So far, I’ve made it to Foxton, Baldock, Hitchin, Stevenage, Knebworth and King’s Cross on the King’s Cross line, Shelford, Whittlesford Parkway, Newport and Liverpool Street on the Liverpool Street line, Dullingham, Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds on the Ipswich line, and Waterbeach, Ely and Shippea Hill on the Norwich line. The last one, Shippea Hill, was perhaps the most exciting journey. In the 2015-16 statistics on station use, Shippea Hill was the least used station in all of England, Wales and Scotland, with just 12 entries an exits in 12 months. Naturally, this made it an obscure destination and one to visit and check out. There was one train a day, leaving early in the morning, so I went along and contributed to the probably inflated statistics for the 2016-17 year.

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Given how flat Cambridgeshire is, I endeavoured to get out of the county and ride in other, more exciting places. My first trip, just after the new year began, was to the Spanish island of Mallorca, in the Mediterranean sea. In the summer, Mallorca, along with Ibiza, is known for its parties and its resorts, but in the winter, Mallorca, along with the Canary Islands, are top destinations for pre-season training camps for the professional cyclists. I went for five days, four days cycling, which ended after a series of mechanicals on the final descent. Of the 14 climbs, the highlights were the Sa Calobra, a 10 km one way road carved into the side of a cliff face that runs from the top of the mountain road all the way to the sea, and the Coll de Soller, which I summited at the same time as three riders from Team Sky. There were also some long days in the saddle where I rode around the windy south west of the island, and along some beautiful country roads through the middle.

I also enrolled in the mass participation Tour de Yorkshire Ride, which runs alongside the pro race of the Tour de Yorkshire. Over the first weekend in May, I travelled up to Sheffield to watch the action. I was there for the second day of the race, in and around Harrogate, with both a men’s and women’s event. The sportive was on the second day, starting and finishing in Stockbridge, near Sheffield. The sportive itself was 100 km long, with a 14 km ride to and from the start line. Looping around the hills of Yorkshire, there were 11 summits to top, each one of them brought with it painfully steep gradients. There was hardly a metre of flat road, and so by the end I was almost totally exhausted. It was definitely worth it though.

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In October, when the Tour de France routes were released, I booked myself into a hostel in the French Alps. So when July came, I headed over, after a brief warm up on the 2012 Olympic roads in Surrey, to the Alps. When in France I made a second warm up on the climb to Risoul. I was in France for the final 5 days of the race, which included 2 mountain stages, 2 sprint finishes and 1 time trial. Particular highlights were watching the race from the tops of the Col du Galibier and the Col d’Izoard, two of the highest paved mountain passes in the French Alps. There were thousands upon thousands of other cyclists there, but my cycling was brought to an end when I crashed on the decent of the Col d’Izoard, breaking my helmet and buckling my wheel. Apart from a few grazes on my shoulder, I was otherwise unharmed and able to continue back to my hostel. After watching a sprint stage in Salon de Provence, a bathe in the Mediterranean in Marseille helped to calm the body down again, before a train ride up to Paris to see the final stage on the Champs-Élysées.

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Music

Cambridge is a home to many student and community orchestras. However, the draw card of London as a global city has proven very tempting for a musical fix over the past year. The highlight of the year has been the BBC Proms. In April, Jacqueline and I sat down with the programme and planned out what we wanted to go and see at the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. While we initially planned for 8 Proms, we eventually ended up going to a total of 12. We purchased weekend passes and went to four concerts in the opening weekend. Our first Proms experience included a mass choral work, and a couple of rather formulaic Elgar symphonies which the audience gave too much credit to.

Our 5th Prom was a Beethoven symphony, which we went to because we were in London anyway for the end of the London-Surrey classic. The 6th to 9th were on the fifth weekend, which included the musical “Oklahoma!” and some rather intimate choral works by Rachmaninov. The 10th was on a day that we had queued early to get tickets to the Last Night of the Proms, which ended up being my second favourite overall: the rather epic Mahler Resurrection Symphony. The final two were the last two Proms of the season, one by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and the other the traditional, flag-waving and bizarre traditions of the Last Night of the Proms.

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Away from classical music, I also found myself attending a number of musicals. Our Gates Term Trip in Lent took us to the “Lion King“, together with its incredible puppeteering, but with a child star who struggled to sing. I also made it to “An American in Paris“; a production based on the music of George Gershwin with terrific pastel costuming. Away from the West End, we went to an early run of “How To Succeed In Business“, which was an early run and, whilst fun, had some kinks to iron out. There was a semi-staged production of “Oklahoma!” during the Proms season, which put the music on a level setting as the acting. Finally, we made it to a completely improvised musical at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which that night was entitled “So You Want To Be My Psychic”

Politics

My year was the first year of Gates Scholars to arrive in Cambridge since the Brexit vote. We had all applied to Cambridge before the vote, and had assumed that we would be stable in the European Union, but the time we arrived, that was no longer the case. In preparation for my arrival, the pound dropped considerably, which meant I had a host of extra funds available for my Australian dollar, which I used to justify the purchase of a new bicycle. In the months after I arrived, Brexit was a topic that was brought up often at lunch or dinner time conversations, indeed it seemed that every conversation would default to Brexit after a sufficiently long period. Once the formal process was triggered in March, it seemed that people stopped talking about it.

However, come November, the global politics shifted. Through Gates, I had made many new friends, most if not all of whom were deeply troubled following the presidential elections. Even most of my non-American friends were deeply distraught and troubled. Many Americans expressed shame in their country in a way contrary to the stereotypical “greatest nation on Earth” mantra. Many more of my friends were feeling estranged from parts of my families. Over the months that followed, most of the people around me, myself included, were going through a grieving process and it took time to recover. To this day, most conversations, especially with Americans will default to politics rather quickly, and politics has lost its traditional taboo as a topic for conversation.

More locally, I discovered that as a Commonwealth citizen, I was entitled to vote in British elections. It was, and still is, philosophically questionable that people with a foreign allegiance can participate in a nation’s democracy, but I wasn’t going to question the system too much. In early May, I participated in the Cambridgeshire local elections. There were two elections that day, one was for the new Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, which was won by the Conservative party. The other was the Cambridge County Council election, in which I voted in the Newnham ward of Cambridge. My ward was won by a Liberal Democrat, even though the majority of the Council was held by the Conservatives. There will be Cambridge City Council elections in the upcoming years, where I will probably be voting in the Market ward.

Unexpectedly, I also found myself in the middle of a general election in the United Kingdom. The snap poll was called for early June, and I found myself eligible to vote again. It was a bizarre campaign to witness. Towards the end of the campaign, there was a televised debate hosted in the Senate House in Cambridge. On a whim, I headed out to see the aftermath. Jeremy Corbyn came out to greet the crowd, but most of the other politicians slipped out the back door. Come election day, I complained bitterly about the lack of sausage sizzle at my polling station, a source of my now oft-repeated rants of disappointment about the quality, proportions and availability of sausages in the United Kingdom. I voted in the Cambridge constituency, which was held by the Labour party with an increased margin, getting a majority of votes for the first time since 1997.

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Gates

In many ways, the community that I have most strongly aligned myself with over the past year was the people I met through the Gates Scholarship. My class was a mix of around 90 students from all over the world. We are an international scholarship, so all of the scholars are from places that are not the UK. There is also a significant American contingent, so I have made more friends with Americans than Brits whilst in Cambridge. Gates scholars are the people I spend my leisure time with, the people I go on trips with and the people I found a house together with.

On the whole, we are a rather tight-knit community, which was formed during the Orientation trip to the Lake District in Ambleside, and has stayed close ever since. The four days on that trip brought everyone close together, and when we arrived back in Cambridge, most of us defaulted to the friendships that we had made there over people in colleges, but that was far from universally true. There were people that I met in Ambleside that I barely saw again, and people who I grew to trust and cherish.

There have been many Gates themed and run events over the course of the year, from internal and external seminars, to workshops, social events, hedgehog days and many more. I made it to each of the marquee events. In Michelmas, was the Gates Gala, hosted at Anstey Hall in Trumpington; a big black-tie social gathering. For Lent, it was the Day of Service, which involved people volunteering their time for a number of causes in and around Cambridge. In Easter, there was the Day of Research, where many of the scholars presented their academic work in a mini-conference like setting. Also a highlight was the Annual Lecture, hosted by Professor Dame Sally Davies on anti-microbial resistance.

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As the Orientation experience had been so formative for me, I wanted to put back into it’s running for 2017. Early in the year, I nominated for the role of co-director, and after a short interview process, I was appointed alongside Harum. It later transpired that Harum was accepted for an internship in the US, and so Emma was also appointed co-director to manage the load. We selected a committee: Brandon, Callie, Jake, Matt, Max, Miriam, Pedro and Paulo. While we had our ups and downs, we managed to get together an Orientation package that seemed to run smoothly. It was a lot of work to get everything ready, and help some of the new scholars arrive in Cambridge. We put on an Induction Day, and four days in Ambleside, each with their own activities and events. Highlights for me included the Learning for Purpose night, Gorge Scrambling and Mountain Biking. We were all thoroughly exhausted by the end. We were greatly assisted by the Gates Council, especially the President and Vice-President, Rebecca and Michelle, and the Learning for Purpose co-directors Karly and Cansu.

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Friends and Family

One of the hardest things packing up all your belongings about moving to a new country is the people that you leave behind. The people I have kept in closest contact with is my family. I have a regular Sunday morning slot during which I usually Skype my parents, though it often gets missed if either of us have something else on. We get to catch up on each other’s respective news and share stories of how we are each getting on. The biggest development for them was that they applied, and were accepted, to become lighthouse keepers on a remote island off the south coast of Tasmania for a six month period in 2018. They will be dropped off by helicopter, and have only one food drop midway through; otherwise they will be isolated and self-sufficient. Each time I Skype them, they are more and more excited by their upcoming adventure.

I also manage to, less frequently, Skype with my grandparents or other extended family. This is a little more sporadic, but they all enjoy hearing what I am up to. I have also from time to time tried to write letters or postcards to them as well, when I manage to have the writing spirit and the time.

My parents came to visit me in Cambridge over the Christmas break. They were in the UK for a total of two weeks. While they were here, I showed them around the city, taking them to all of the typical Cambridge things. Unfortunately they didn’t come during term, so I was unable to take them along to a formal dinner. We then hired a car, and drove through Bletchley Park, Oxford, Stonehenge and Salisbury. While I returned back to Cambridge, they went on to the Cotswalds, and later, down to Kent and Dover. I joined them for the New Year’s fireworks in London, touring around some of the common sights as well.

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Christmas Day was a massive celebration of friends and family in Cambridge. Through a series of escalating invitees, Annalise ended up hosting a pot-luck in her kitchen with roughly 40 people in attendance on Christmas Day. I cooked my Christmas Puddings, which were subsequently lit with brandy. We also later joined Joanna and Danny for post Christmas dinner knitting. It was the confluence of friends and family that has really made my holiday worthwhile.

There are of course so many opportunities I’ve had to hang out with and relax with my new friends that it would be impractical to list them all. Highlights include the various parties and karaoke sessions at Joanna and Danny’s, mingling around the bonfires on Guy Fawkes Night, the Trinity Singing on the River, a visit to the opening of a corpse flower and the many iterations of brunch at various colleges and hangings out at Jesus, Churchill or Trinity MCR or Pembroke GP.

There are so many wonderful people that I have met and gotten to know well during my time in Cambridge thus far. Many of them have impacted on my life in various ways that I could scarcely comprehend. So in no particular order, to Jacqueline, Annalise, Krittika, Callie, Emma, Joanna, Danny, Jake, Pedro, Harum, Miriam, Matt (x2), Herschel, Giovanna, Ben, Rebecca, Max, Brandon, Michelle, Edyth, Margaret, Annika, Eliska, Paulo, Alex (x2), Ryan, Karly, Collin, Cansu, Paul (x2), Olly, Kevin (x3), Joseph (x2), Camilo, Noor, Mike, Natalie, Eddie, Eric, Alice, Zach, Cat, Joanne and so many many others (apologies to those whom I’ve missed), I thank you so sincerely and warmly for making my year such an incredible one, and here’s to another hopefully exciting year ahead!

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