Two terms in Cambridge mean much more than the flowing of time. This is indeed important. As I have recently turned 20, I am realising how quickly one year of college is already gone. Exam term is approaching, and as fast as freshers’ week passed, so the first row of tests will move by. On the other hand, as mentioned, this experience has so far been more widely meaningful to me. I have understood, in the first place, the great deal of passion that is required to do academic work. Spending days and days on a single topic, nearly all your time on the same subject, and being asked to love it always with the same intensity leads to question your own dedication and will. It is, in many ways, a vocation. Some will discover that they did not really like their subject. Others will fall for the stress. Others, finally, will think that they do not want to dedicate such a huge part of their life to this. Compromise is hardly a thing here.
On the other hand, I have understood the relevance of my individuality in defining happiness. Approaching a new environment, where everybody hardly knows anybody, is an unsettling experience. This is not harsh, indeed, as the student community has all sorts of devices to let the freshers settle in smoothly. So did I. Yet, one cannot rely on the old friends, or your parents, or on the safety of your home acquaintances. You’re going to notice soon that, if you were relying too much on others, you might be quite unhappy on your own. There was a girl in my college who, I believe, had this kind of experience. She quit, quite sadly, before she could even enjoy what she had fought so hard for. In the end, college is a discovery of one’s self, and the necessity of being happy on your own first, satisfied with yourself. Others, I like to believe after two months, are a wonderful complement, but they can hardly give you the happiness you don’t feel.
Now, I daily enjoy the small, pleasurable sensations of college life: the beauty of the sun rays in the morning, on the shimmering façade of the Fitzwilliam Museum; the water calmly flowing below Clare’s bridge; the impassible look of the University Library in mid-afternoon; the slight, tender melancholia of returning home after a day of work in the department. Banal, mundane things, which still make my daily life, my routine, and my universe. I savour all of them equally, and I find rest in the mere act of perceiving. Thoughts come usually later at night, in bed, and I often ask myself the meaning of what I do, of what I see. In all of this, it is me, my individuality, and the need to justify my existence daily. It means giving a reason to wake up, go to lectures, study diligently, and look desperately for summer internships. It means reminding myself why I should eat properly, take care of my room, and nurture my friendships. In fact, to me college meant passing from a passive to an active acceptance of the order of being.