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Rowing, lectures, sleep, repeat: the life of a Blues rower

Emma Andrews is a first year undergraduate at Pembroke studying natural sciences.  She’s rowing for CUWBC (Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club) and has been a rower since she was 13.  Here she talks about her experiences so far.

Emma-1I started rowing at school, at Putney High school in London, on the tideway.  I rowed on the boat race stretch my whole rowing life which was a great experience.  I started when I was 12/13 and really enjoyed rowing at school, with my friends.  I never rowed for anyone except school, but I got quite into it, took it seriously,  and I was lucky to have some really great coaches. I did a lot of racing including national schools regatta and Henley women’s.  When I was 17 – in year 12 – I trialled for GB under-18s.  I did the junior European Championships (Coupe de Jeunesse) in the women’s eight, and got a silver medal.  Then this summer, my last year of school, I trialled again.  The process works so that you trial once a year and there’s no follow-through, you have to retrial.  This year was better, so this summer I was chosen as the single scull in the junior European championships. I got to travel to Poland as the GB Women’s team captain, and then I won a silver on Saturday and a gold on the Sunday, which was brilliant.

That’s definitely my biggest achievement so far.  I trained in the single pretty much all of that year so it was really nice to finish on such a high. And obviously I was also applying for Cambridge that year and got my offer in January.  The coaches said, if you get in please come and row, and I thought that sounded great.  So I came early, on the 9th September, only about 2 weeks after results day which was pretty stressful, for the pre-season training.

I had a break in August, I had about a month to sleep! Literally just sleep, it was great.

So you’ve now been here for one term, how are you finding it?

Pretty much how everyone told me it would be, which is stressful and difficult! It’s really fun, I do love it.  But everyone says Cambridge is hard work and you kind of ignore them, but it is. I do physical natural sciences, which has a lot of contact hours.  I find the course and the material so interesting, and for the first time I feel like I’m actually learning real science rather than what they taught at A levels.  I’m really enjoying it, it’s just very full on and I can definitely understand why they’re only eight week terms! I’m very glad it’s the end of term so I can recuperate. With rowing I’ve made it quite difficult for myself.  But I am really enjoying it, everyone’s really lovely.

The people here…they’re better than I could have ever thought, in terms of how keen everyone is to get involved.  At school it wasn’t cool to be really enjoying your subject or get really into rowing, but people here love those things and it’s great.

Have you got lots of training?

Yes, I train 12 times a week. I’m here til the 22nd December. Everyone’s moving out today, but Pembroke’s been great. I’ve got my own room still, and I’ve had the same room since I moved in early so I haven’t had to move any of my stuff around.  I’m kind of looking forward to it, because I get time to work as well as row. I’m hoping I’ll be really productive because I’ll have free days in Pembroke to use the library, get stuff done, and also see Cambridge at Christmas.  Lectures and contact hours take up most of my time, so I’m excited for things like naps after training, but it’ll be a long haul!

What’s the next big thing?

Trial VIIIs.  On the 12th December we have two Cambridge boats race the boat race course against each other as a kind of practice run.  We go to London for that in two weeks.  I’m doing my best and I think I’ve improved loads.  Going into an eight was a change and at first I found it quite difficult but I love it because you’re going so fast! So much faster than on your own in a single. It’s really nice, there’s a lot more team spirit.  You have a whole team around you.  The trail VIIIs are only Cambridge vs Cambridge, so it’s more about practicing on the course.

Are you enjoying being a ‘Valencian’?

I love it. The food’s great, I pretty much picked Pembroke because I heard the food was so great, and it’s true! I’ve missed brunch a lot because of rowing but I’ve managed to go a few times and it’s worth it.  All the formals are great, the Carluccio formal was especially good, and then he came and talked to us after.  Generally things like that have made it really enjoyable.  I go to all the boat club social events and the people I’ve met are really lovely to me, ask me how it’s going. It’s nice having people around who enjoy talking about rowing and are supportive.  Other people doing lightweight rowing from Pembroke and freshers who’ve rowed at school means you have other people around you with similar experiences.

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