Halfway Considerations

The time for my Halfway Hall has come. This is a typical Cantab tradition when second-year students gather for a formal dinner and celebrate their entrance into the second half of their degree. A BA consists of nine terms, each of them made of eight weeks. Therefore, the fifth week of Lent Term introduced me symbolically to the end of the first step in my academic path. The occasion is rather symbolical since nothing will change in my daily life. On the other hand, I feel the urge to question my time in the United Kingdom so far. In over a year, my understanding of art history has definitely increased. I also discovered an interest in publishing through my editorial experience at Notes. Inevitably, I wonder about the relation between one’s past and future selves.

I entered the second year deeply changed. In the first place, the aura of novelty and excitement characterising of the first days of university tends to disappear. The beauty of my daily life did not change. The cloister in Jesus College still strikes me as beautiful in the silent mornings, when I walk to lectures. Throughout the streets of Cambridge, many layers of history combine graciously and make me appreciate the visual attentiveness which my degree has forced me to develop. However, I also noticed that I need better reasons to motivate myself. My first days in town were definitely characterised by the excitement of studying at such an exceptional institution. Indeed, I am still grateful for this opportunity. Nonetheless, my sight is slowly moving from the present to the horizon of future.

After the first year, more or less all the students in my class started thinking in some depth about their professional future. One can easily notice from the widespread anxiety about summer internships and lengthy conversations along the lines of “did you apply there yet?”. The sense of moving toward one’s “adult life” brings an inevitable sense of melancholy, which is further emphasised by rituals such as Halfway Hall, a memento mori (forgive me for being a little dramatic) which point to the fast-approaching end of our degrees. In fact, I find the perspective of moving toward new life scenarios exciting; I have always been keen on planning and looking ahead whenever possible. Nonetheless, I feel the responsibility connected to change.

The pictures in this post come from a trip I made last June to King’s College chapel’s rooftop. Apparently, this is a set pilgrimage for all the freshers of the college during their first weeks of October but I never had a chance to contemplate Cambridge from that privileged point of view. King’s College chapel is beautifully out of proportion and its grandeur does not match the cosy feeling of most college chapels. The contrast is even more evident when one climbs up to the top through a series of steep steps which unfold throughout one of the corner towers. From there, the eye can embrace the entire city in one gaze and realise, from the perspective of a student who has just finished his first year, how beautiful and yet small, short-lived his time in this daydream place is going to be. The vision moves forward, away from the narrow borders of the town, and seeks the distant horizon with excitement.


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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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