The Second Year

Once again, I am back to the UK where I will soon start my second year of college. It is a puzzling sensation; Cambridge is a peculiar environment where time flows following its own rhythm. The imposing architecture of the colleges reminds the viewer of a long tradition. The university and its campus may seem the same, but new students inhabit them year by year. It is a constant flow of new faces, whose shadows are cast against the same ancient backdrop. I am realising that I am part of this transition myself.

Daedalus on Wheels by Eduardo Paolozzi in Chapel Court

As it is customary for second-year students, I will take care of some college children. This is a Cambridge tradition: freshers are introduced to college life by two older peers who can answer their questions and help them settle in. My “college wife” studies Modern Languages, which means that I will take care of both art-history and language freshers. Apart from the funny side of having “kids”, this involves looking back at one’s own past experience. When I arrived on the first of October 2016, my mind was solely directed toward university; it was some sort of dream and I was totally absorbed. Now, I am already looking forward, beyond the gates of graduation.

This coming year will certainly lack the thrill of novelty. I know my college, and walking back through the main gate awakens pleasant memories. My room is different and so my staircase mates but still, nothing seems truly new. There is not even the expectation of the final year of college. Second year is indeed a moment of passage and, hopefully, enjoyment. The life of a fresher is frenetic, like being sucked into a whirlpool. Everything is fast, exciting, and experience does not develop until the end of the year. In this regard, I hope to enjoy more the single instants of the coming days. Walking past the great gate of Trinity College, the imposing courts of St John’s, the gloomy chapel of Peterhouse I am reminded of the privilege of beauty.

From the rooftop of King’s Chapel

Following a hectic summer, I am trying to understand where my future will bend. In some naive way, I still find equally attractive both the idea of further study and work. Needless to say, the following scenarios would differ greatly. On the one hand, I might decide to move to the United States to pursue a PhD and probably progress toward the academia. On the other hand, I may stay in Europe and start building a career in the art market. I am still young and I see myself through an infinite set of possibilities. Yet, I understand that time will force me to narrow my persona, make choices, cut branches and nurture others. The possibilities will gradually diminish, disappear until my whole potential will be exploited… One hopes fruitfully.

Pembroke College

Thinking of freshers, my most sincere advice would be: be curious. To some extent, this is obvious. Yet, everybody soon understands that Cambridge life is frenetic. You will not have all the time you need, there will always be more events to attend, more books to read, more societies to join. Hence, find your balance but keep in mind that these are unique years. Whatever you will miss now, is probably gone forever. There is so much to look forward to.

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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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