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A day in the life: NatSci

Natural Sciences is the largest tripos at Cambridge.

It also comes with a timetable heavy on contact hours. Below, Coco Day (2013) describes a typical day in her life as a 'NatSci' at Pembroke.

Thursday 22nd January 2015

7.45am Alarm goes off. Get up, stumble across the room to where it is strategically placed to force me to get out of bed. Switch it off and flop straight back into bed again.

8.00am Wash, rinse, repeat.

8.15am I actually get up this time. There's just about time for a shower and a piece of toast before I cycle in from Selwyn Gardens, where I live, to the Chemistry Department for my first lecture.

9.00am Make it inside just as the lecturer starts talking – perfect timing!

10.30am It's midway through the second lecture and my eyes are starting to close – not because of the lecture content (really); I went to formal for a friend's birthday last night and it ended up being a late night.


11.00am I have an hour between lectures, so I go into the lab next door to do some analysis of a compound I made in yesterday's chemistry practical. Have to queue to use the melting-point machines, but I get some hints from my fellow chemists, so it’s all good.

1.00pm My third and final lecture of the day is done; it’s a two-minute cycle back into College for lunch in trough.

1.45pm Time for the afternoon's practical, which is actually a computing session in the department. It's supposed to finish at 6pm, but I manage to get it done by 4.45pm so I'm free to go – which is good because my head has started to hurt. Computing isn’t my favourite thing!

4.45pm Go to my boyfriend Richard's room in College for a cup to tea and to complain about computing.

5.15pm We go around College putting up posters for next week's Stokes Society talk in every staircase. I’m the publicity officer, so I design and print the posters each week... and spam everyone with Facebook events!

5.30pm Richard is the Junior Organ Scholar so he has to practice a lot; we go up to the organ loft so I can page-turn for him as he rehearses for Sunday night’s evensong and a recital he's doing in a couple of weeks’ time. I’m not musical or religious at all, but the calm of the chapel and the lovely music never fail to help me de-stress.

6.00pm We eat dinner in trough with some friends and I bemoan the lack of vegetarian options. I don't eat there much as a rule, but on Thursdays I spend a lot of time around College so it’s just more convenient.


6.30pm I suddenly remember some supervision work I was supposed to hand in this afternoon and rush to the Porters' Lodge to put it in my supervisor's pigeon hole! After that, I cycle home in the bitter cold – it’s only ten minutes, but by the time I get back my hands are frozen stiff.

7.00pm I write a few emails and create a Facebook event for the Stokes Society talk so I can proceed with the aforementioned spamming of everybody’s news feeds.

7.30pm I should be writing up my lab reports from today’s and yesterday’s practicals, but it’s been a long day and I inevitably get distracted reading articles on the internet. Feminist articles always catch my eye – today, it’s the ridiculous axing and ‘return’ of the infamous Page Three of The Sun. I read testimonies by former glamour models and people who’ve been subjected to horrible instances of sexism directly related to Page Three, and I can’t see how anyone could justify the harm that it causes. The comments sections on the articles make me angry, so I decide to do something else.

8.30pm I write a letter to my dad; he’s incredibly anti-technology and doesn’t own a computer or a phone he can work, so we write back and forth every week via good old-fashioned snail mail.

9.15pm I head back into College for the weekly Tea Party; every Thursday night, a big group of friends gather in Richard’s set for tea, biscuits, cake and a good old natter. His room is huge – a perk of being an organ scholar – and anywhere up to about 30 people show up at the start, gradually dwindling as the evening goes on.

9.30pm The Tea Party guests get treated to a live performance; Pembroke’s very own a cappella group AcaPembroke are performing for us to practice for upcoming May Ball auditions. It’s great fun and the room is completely packed.

11.30pm After a conversation about the recent transphobia debate concerning the Green Party candidate for our area, which disappointed many people including me, most people have headed off now. Those who remain get the washing up done, then have some fun filling in ridiculous answers to the questions on somebody’s RAG Blind Date form.

12.00am We kick out the stragglers, then Richard and I make sure to book Pembroke May Ball Launch formal tickets as soon as the clock hits midnight. They’re highly coveted and I later find out they sold out within about 5 minutes! After that, it’s definitely time to sleep. Thursday’s always a busy day.


If you are interested in finding out more about the Natural Sciences tripos, see their website.

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