By the End of Term

It’s now week seven and I am approaching the end of my first term in Cambridge. It has been a spectacular experience, enough to confirm definitely my choice of coming to the UK. Indeed, this has been a complex journey, but the hurdle of managing the whole admission process has been completely compensated by my first weeks here. Actually, the time students spend in Cambridge is relatively small: a term is made up of eight weeks only. Work is intense and the schedule hectic, in order to make everything fit properly. In this regard, I was surprised by the amount of things that I daily have to do, especially as my course is the one with the least contact hours: seven per week.

However, every day I have to do research, revise my notes, take part in lectures and events throughout the city. Every week there are free seminars, talks and conferences ranging from my field to topics that I would have never considered before. Right now my department offers a series of seminar on Medieval art, as well as research seminars in which the university’s fellows present their work. Moreover, the Slade Lectures this year (a series of weekly lectures on the History of Art field) are held by David Freedberg, notable scholar and director of the Warburg Institute on art, history and neuroscience. Knowledge is delivered far outside the strict lecture time: we are continuously subject to prompts, suggestions, hints. We are stimulated, and we are given the instruments to pursue our own interest. Cambridge is more than its academic excellence.


The HoA and Architecture Library

At the same time, I admit I am happy I will have some rest soon: the quantity of things and their variety often give the impression there is not enough time to re-elaborate, even enjoy. Sometimes, I miss an empty moment to gather and contemplate the instants of my day. Studying art history, I believe that such occasions are important: the experience is made up of different layers, each of them conveying its significance through the interconnection with the totality. I enjoying staying still and observing, expanding a second of pleasure beyond the mere necessity and feeling, just feeling what’s in front of me. I’ve seen and experienced so much, and yet I regret that I did not have the necessary time to do so and thus say: I am enjoying.

I don’t think the reason for this is the context: the chance of taking part in so many activities is a perk, that’s out of doubt. On the other hand, I think I still need to find my balance here, the right position between work and enjoyment, between the huge number of things I could and the narrower group I should do. As Sir Joshua Reynolds powerfully said in one of his famous speeches, “nothing is denied to well-directed labour”. It is a strong statement, I believe, and I always tried to conform to it, working selectively in order to reach my aims: that has been the way I gained my place in Cambridge, quite literally as this words featured in my personal statement. Anyway, to plan effectively, a solid graspĀ over the present is fundamental. Being sucked into the whirlpool of the present does not allow to give an effective reading of reality: some degree of detachment is always necessary.

In conclusion, I have seen the great potential of being here. Now, I hope to exploit it to the best: more consciousness and thus deeper enjoyment. Michaelmas term will close on the second of December, that is to say next Friday. Then, I will return to Italy for a few weeks: precious time to close my eyes, enjoy the last months and savour the year to come, back in Cambridge.

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Alessandro M. Rubin Written by:

Cambridge History of Art alumnus. Passionate early-modernist, curious about contemporary art and aesthetic theory.

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