I am now coming close to the end of my first year in Cambridge. I expect my exam results to be released in less than two weeks, and may week is on the doorstep. For those who are not familiar with the Cambridge jargon, may week closes the year. The colleges celebrate the event with great parties, called May Balls, who run throughout the nights between the 16th and the 24th. Soon, I will return back to Italy, ready for a summer course I will attend at Yale University in July (I will discuss the topic at some length in a future post). In nine months, Cambridge has become some sort of home, and I realise that returning back feels like taking a vacation. I have left behind high school and, to some extent, all the system of life I had built around it.
Next year I will attend part IIA of my course. I had to choose two optional courses, monographs on a specific artistic topic. The choices are usually around ten, mostly but not exclusively about Western Art. For example, next year one course will delve into Islamic-art collections. The size of a class varies, but there is a cap of eighteen students per subject. Places are assigned giving preference to part-IIB students (third-years), and the remaining ones are drawn by ballot. Therefore, each student makes a list of preferences, so that he can be allocated to his second or third choice if the subjects he prefers are full.
The choice of the special subjects is quite important, as they provide students with experts and wide scholarship on specific issues. Often, the courses provide a solid base for the third-year dissertation, hence it is important to combine them wisely. I was fortunate enough to be allocated to my top choices, Italian Art and Architecture in the Age of Giotto and Art against the World: 1945-1989. In fact, my main field of interest is Italian art between the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries. On the other hand though, the last year stirred some interest in twentieth-century art, and I am considering a dissertation in that area. Regarding Giotto, the course promises to blur the heavy demarcation line between late-Medieval and Renaissance art.
Next year will be in many ways decisive for the development of my academic experience. I will set the basis for my final dissertation, and I will start thinking seriously about my plans after graduation. As usual, I prefer looking forward, and I expect the coming months to be productive, and as exciting as the last ones. The first year in Cambridge has passed smoothly, and I have acquired a know-how that will help me in the future times. Cambridge offers great opportunities, but often it resembles a jungle, and one needs to know its mechanisms to make the most out of it. This year has been a successful use of my time (hopefully the exam results will complete the picture), and I have now the instruments to draw more and more out of the coming times.