As well as the all-encompassing study and careers activities on the Cambridge MBA, the unique experience of being a member of the University of Cambridge and one of the 31 Colleges is an enriching part of the year.
But how has that experience been impacted by the essential COVID-19 related restrictions the University has had to introduce?
Here we asked a group of MBAs to give you a snapshot of the ‘College experience’ for them at the start of their MBA in September and October 2020:*
“I was very happy with the number of outdoor events, virtual events, or even just smaller sized gatherings that my College has been able to accommodate” says Rachel Baxter of Clare College. “Our MCR bar is still open three to four nights a week, the Chapel is open for regular Evensong services, and the gym/rowing opportunities are still available. The only catch is that you need to sign up ahead of time.”
Rachel reports that there are lots of events planned by Colleges and extracurriculars for Spring 2021 with hopes that there will be fewer restrictions then. But there are contingency plans being made too.
“Everyone is doing a lot to keep things as “normal” but as safe as possible. It’s not easy and as a student, I’m really impressed.”
“Most things are still happening, just in slightly different formats or smaller groups, so we still feel connected to the College and to each other”, says Hawi Abbajobir, from Germany, of Queens’ College. “It was a shame that Matriculation didn’t happen for us at Queens’, but a few of us MBAs did our own matriculation photo shoot and then went to dinner, so we’re finding creative solutions.”
“Weekly academic speaker sessions, where alumni or renowned experts presenting their research and/or debate on key topics, still go on via Zoom at St Catherine’s College”, says Thai MBA student Ton Durongkaveroj.
“Social events hosted by the student body (MCR) have been running from day one. Examples are virtual meet ups for those in quarantine, College parent-child picnic, cross-department pub nights (all events follow social distance rules).
“All sporting events run as normal – Cambridge College leagues for most sports are ongoing while novice teams started training according to schedule as well. However, sport team socials are not being held at the moment.”
Canadian Matthew Hou, of Downing College, reports that “Outdoor sports such as rowing are still quite busy and have adjusted their training to fit COVID (about 70 per cent individual training via Zoom indoors, 30 per cent in person).
“Cambridge University social clubs organised around nationalities, interests or hobbies have shifted either online (Zoom) or adjusted to do in-person socially distanced or outdoors meet ups. “
Melanie O’Sullivan is at Darwin College, and she says she found it incredibly social.
“We’ve just adapted to the restrictions. Darwin has done everything they can to facilitate events and bonding within the College, particularly with your household. Through the student body, they’ve organised Wine & Cheese nights, Whiskey Tasting in the (in)famous Darbar, socially distanced salsa dancing (it’s actually incredibly popular)”
“We’re aware there are things that we’re missing out on, but everyone is adaptable” says Melanie. “There is so much to do here both within your College and the wider Cambridge community. At a time like this, escaping the big city is such a respite.”
“At Christ’s College, there are still events and extra-curricular activities. I joined the rowing team and attend evensong every week! The bar and library are still open here as well. Of course, everything is restricted to some extent, but I know a few Colleges are still doing formal dinners!” says Mira Howard, American MBA student.
Sam Waldo is a music fan – “My College, Clare, has some wonderful music programmes and I’ve been able to attend some live music performances which has been very nice.
“Sports-wise, I think most teams and organised events are more or less happening. I got to do a rowing experience, and I know that the rowing is going ahead. One friend on the MBA is playing rugby, so that’s happening. I’m in a bubble for playing squash (six people that are authorised to play with one another). “
And as for the MBA academics and experiences within CJBS?
Hieu Vu Viet from Vietnam tells us “I am glad that we can still have the in-person classes, especially for some courses that involve lots of interactions and discussion. The hybrid approach of online and offline works well (we learn the concepts in advance and spend time at the class mostly for discussion).
“There are still small gatherings outside classes. We hang out in small groups (of less than five) and sometimes have lunch or coffee together. We maintain good relationships within the assigned streams and workgroup. However, there is less interaction with other streams at the moment due to the restrictions, but we will get to know more students in our current cohort next term”
There is an active and creative scene at CJBS for those wanting to plug into this, says Matthew Hou, “organised by and for the MBA class, around outdoors events (cycling, hiking, walks, picnics, orientation scavenger hunt) and organised indoor activities (Fitzwilliam museum tour by a Christie’s Chinese pottery expert, Harry Potter tour in London, SIG restaurant nights).”
“Outside of the Colleges, us MBAs have been organising social events – most in person, some over zoom. We are also going full speed ahead with SIG events and activities.” says Hawi.
Please note that the UK Government announced on 31 October a four-week lockdown in England to start on 4 November 2020. The above article was written about experiences during September and October 2020.
While in-person teaching can continue at Universities during this newly announced ‘lockdown’ period, restaurants and entertainment venues have been shut down, so these temporary measures may impact some of the activities listed above, if the University and Colleges deem it necessary.
The University’s Coronavirus web section provides further information and advice about studying at Cambridge during the pandemic.