Courtney asks: what’s it like to be a black student at Cambridge University?

Courtney asks: what’s it like to be a black student at Cambridge University?


We are about to go to Jesus College We are going to go to talk to Joseph and Fadle about life as an undergraduate student I’ve got some real cool questions please be as candid and as open as possible What’s the best thing about being black at Cambridge? Fadle: You have just a different outlook on a lot of things, you have a different experience. You to go to uni to meet people who’ve had different experiences. Courtney: for me, when I used to meet people who were like ‘oh, you’re the only black person I know’ and I was like ‘get away from me’! This could quickly turn into a kind of get out situation, you know what I mean… How about yourself? Joseph: for me, it’s more about appreciating that we are part of the change because you was here. There is hardly any black people there’s this, there’s that… So for me it’s just like ‘okay, but I am one of those black people that are there’ so… we have been given the opportunity to be part of that change
Courtney: yeah Courtney: you’re in second year and you’re in first year, right?
Joseph and Fadle: yeah Courtney: So you guys kind of were applying around the time when there was a bit more discussion around being black at Cambridge.
Fadle: mmhmm Courtney: Talk to us about your experience with the media before you came here. Joseph: well, I would hear a lot on the news about unrepresentation at Cambridge and stuff like that but it didn’t – I wasn’t going to let that kind of get in the way of what I wanted to achieve
Courtney: good Joseph: and also my teacher was really like pushy about it
Courtney: yeah Joseph: she was like ‘I think you should apply, I did this course at Cambridge, I think you should do it’ and de de de dah…
Courtney: oh, cool! Joseph: and I was like ‘yeah, sure, why wouldn’t I go for it?’ and she was like ‘what’s the worst that could happen – you don’t get in?
Courtney: yeah Joseph: Well, loads of people don’t
get in.’ So I just went for it and I knew that the representation was quite bad Courtney: mmhmm Joseph: I was hoping to add to that representation in some way anyway. Fadle: I was aware that, yeah, the minority
Courtney: yeah Fadle: groups are really unrepresented but then it’s more of a problem… it’s also a problem at any decent university that I would’ve applied to as well. It’s like you can’t let that stop me. Courtney: have your ideas changed about Cambridge since being here? Joseph: yeah, a hundred percent! Courtney: ok, so tell us what did you think before you got here then? Joseph: all of the myths. [laughter] Joseph: I don’t know why I thought that, which… I’d never been here before – the only time I came here was for my interview
Courtney: amazing Joseph: and then, other than that, I’d never come to visit or anything… Just old buildings, old lecturers, old people and I thought I was just going to be stuck in a box just working. But I think it’s quite a cool city I enjoyed my time here as a whole. There are ups and downs where I feel like ‘oh wow I feel a bit more lonely than I thought I’d actually ever feel’. Courtney: yeah Joseph: but that’s more of like a growing process for me just living by myself in general so yeah, now it’s changed totally, although somethings haven’t changed…
Courtney: yeah Joseph: It’s Cambridge, it’s a prestigious university and so I appreciate being here I look out the window and I’m like ‘wow, okay, I’m here’.
Courtney: wow and turns out, yeah… ‘oh, do I deserve to be here?’
Courtney: mmm Joseph: And you’re like ‘oh, I’m behind, I’m with all these smart people. Am I smart enough to be here?’ And all those questions cross my mind and I don’t find answers to those questions.
[laughing] Joseph: I don’t answer those questions. But I just keep at it to be honest. Courtney: yeah Joseph: and I’m only in my first year.
Fadle: yeah. [Laughing] Fadle: Nah, if you’ve got that kind of outlook in first year then like that’s the kind of the outlook to have all the time isn’t it? Yeah.
Courtney: Yeah, yeah Fadle: I’d say definitely my ideas have changed. Even… I know that they say like, for example, people at Cambridge are like typically privately educated and are close-minded
Courtney: yeah Fadle: and things like that.
Courtney: yeah Fadle: But I also realise that I’ve been quite sheltered as well in my life so I only knew people from like similar background to myself and I didn’t know anyone who’d been to a private school, for example, so I had all those ideas about what people would be like but… Courtney: yeah, all these preconceptions Fadle: mmhmm. But you find out that like people here are just like the average
18-year-olds. They are, in some respects… Courtney: okay, yeah, I was about to say, because I met some people… Fadle and Joseph: yeah
[laughter] Fadle: I think… I think one of the things that I noticed was that the people who aren’t like you aren’t the people you be friends with anyway Courtney: exactly, yeah
Fadle: so like yeah Courtney: and it’s such a big place, right?
Fadle: mmhmm Courtney: It’s like you can find your people and just stick with them. Yeah, alright, next Q. Were you shocked by the workload? Fadle: Yeah. Yeah. Courtney: Yeah.
Joseph: if you balance your time well it’s… you’re not going to be stuck in your room 24-7 doing nothing
Courtney: yeah Joseph: maybe exam season you will,
Courtney: yeah Joseph: but before that; if you balance it well, you’ll be okay. Courtney: so before I came, I don’t know if they did it with you guys, but everyone just hyped up the societies. They were like ‘oh yeah, when you come it’s going to be so cool, you can join like every society,
[laughter] Courtney: oh my days, you’re going to have – you’re gonna be like drinking tea with the Queen, and when I got here I completely forgot you had to do work. I completely forgot that ‘oh, this degree stuff is actually like…’ So when they were like, oh yeah, 8, 12 essays a term… I could have collapsed. I obviously didn’t die. I’m here to tell the tale. What has your favourite moment been so far? Joseph: probably all the extra curricular stuff I’ve done, actually. You have the work and then there’s always other stuff to be doing outside of work. Courtney: yeah Fadle: Jesus May Ball was probably Courtney: ooooh
Joseph: mmm Fadle: the best thing I’ve done this year. Joseph: yeah, I haven’t had any yet
Fadle: yeah, Fadle: you haven’t had one yet, yeah Courtney: which ones are you going to? Joseph: King’s Affair Courtney: Ooooh… That’s not really the best one.
[laughter] Joseph: they say Jesus May Ball… Courtney: what’s the hardest part of Cambridge life? Joseph: I think what trying to constantly fit in. I think you’re always thinking are you going to fit. And it’s funny because when you speak to other people they feel the exact same way sometimes and you may think, ‘oh, social groups this, social groups that…’ but there are times when you’re just there and it’s just you and it’s like ‘oh, this is too much’.
Courtney: yeah Joseph: but I think it’s just about getting through it, understanding and appreciating where you are and then just trying to push through it, and talking to people, and letting them know that okay, I’m finding this hard. Because people in Cambridge are actually quite helpful.
Courtney: yeah Joseph: It’s just about going about opening up. I realise that you kind of, you release like your burdens and it kind of gets spread out and you feel better but it is hard sometimes. Sometimes you’re just there and it’s just you and you’re like ‘ahhh’. Fadle: for me personally it’s being quite far away from home so, yeah, I know a lot of friends who can just nip home for the weekend but… Courtney: yeah, because like London…
Fadle: Yeah, I have that… Courtney: How do you deal with it though? Fadle: They’ve invented WhatsApp video calls for a reason…
[laughter] Courtney: it’s true it’s true, yeah. But it’s only eight weeks. By the time you’ve really got the hang of
everything it’s week five, so that’s the
[laughter] end of that! Joseph: it’s so quick Courtney: what most shocked you about the black people here? Fadle: I would say diversity of background. Joseph: I thought all black people were from London! [laughter] Joseph: then you meet black people from other parts of England and you’re like ‘okaaaaaaaaay’
Courtney: and they come with an accent. Joseph: I was so confused but I don’t know why I always thought black people were all from London… Courtney: No, it’s so true Joseph: They’re from different parts of the UK, parts of the world. So yeah that definitely shocked me. Courtney: I thought all the black people here were going to be mad nerdy and like I would be the only one like speaking slang and I thought they would all be private school so I was shocked when I came and there were other state school students and like people from London and other places who are just so down to earth.
Fadle: yeah Courtney: what would you say to a black student thinking of applying to Cambridge who’s a bit on the fence? What would your words be? And it can totally be ‘just don’t do it’ don’t feel like under pressure. Joseph: I would say 100% go for it. And I’d say it because being at Cambridge when I’m hearing of stuff back home or in London all these like catastrophic kind of events, in people that I’ve known’s lives and I’m just like, ‘wow, life is seriously short’. You don’t get to do much and I’m here in Cambridge and people back home are getting into serious problems. So I would say, if I was to speak to myself
back then, I’d just say ‘go for it’ because you’ve just got to go and achieve your dreams. I am actually starting to realise that these opportunities can last a lifetime and life is actually very, very short you just have to go for it.
Courtney: wow Courtney: that’s amazing. And yourself?
Fadle: I mean, I can’t compete Fadle: with something like that.
Courtney: yeah, I was about to say, yeah… Fadle: I think we need to end it there really.
[laughter] Courtney: it’s enough…
[laughter] Fadle: I don’t know, sort of lighten up maybe. The thing is like if you don’t apply, then you definitely won’t get in but if you do apply then you might get in, so you’ve got nothing to lose. Courtney: amazing Joseph: that’s a good quote, you should… Courtney: yeah, you’ve got nothing to lose. Thank you guys so much and just from me personally to you guys I’m super proud. Keep it up, you’ll do amazing. Don’t let it stress you out. You’ve got this. You’re smart enough to be here for sure.

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