Tag Archives: Cambridge

May Week in Cambridge

May Week is a University of Cambridge tradition—a week of mad revelry that happens, as you definitely would not expect, in June. The highlights of the week are May Balls, elaborate and elegant all-night parties hosted by the colleges. Larger colleges throw balls every year, but the smaller colleges take turns. This year, my alma mater (Corpus Christi College) hosted. Additionally, two white tie balls were held. (Most are black tie.) Since neither of those things happened last year when I was a student at Cambridge, I had to return this year to take part! My week involved very little sleep but lots of alcohol and lots of fun.

I arrived in England on Monday afternoon to the news that a friend had an extra formal hall ticket at Christ’s College that evening. So I dashed to the college, luggage in tow (thank goodness for porters!), and arrived just in time for sherry, good food, half a bottle of wine, and port. Since I don’t drink much in Munich, that was quite the boozy start to my week. In other words, it was good training for what was to come! After a day of meeting up with friends who still live in Cambridge, the real partying started Tuesday night with the St. John’s College May Ball. All sorts of rumors circulate about this party: Time once ranked it the seventh-best party in the world. They keep a reserve fund to buy extra fireworks at the last minute so they can be sure to top Trinity College’s display. I have no clue whether either of those rumors is true, but it was certainly a perfectly elegant evening. We went from bumper cars to swing boats and from pop-rock to beautifully sung opera. I was well-fed with crepes, cheeses, scones, macarons, and pizza. Particular highlights included the fireworks display and the tea bar.

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Triumphant return to Cambridge

Degrees work strangely at Cambridge. I was approved for my M.Phil. in June, but I couldn’t actually graduate until October’s convocation. For most Americans, that would be kind of annoying, because it’s a long, expensive flight to England. But, of course, I didn’t move back to America, and it’s a short, cheap flight from Munich.

The Gates-Cambridge Scholars Alumni Reunion was the weekend before graduation, so I decided to attend that too and stay the week. It started with a presentation and workshop on foreign aid.

This is me concentrating really hard, definitely not me falling asleep because I had woken up at 5am for my flight.
This is me concentrating really hard, definitely not me falling asleep because I had woken up at 5am for my flight.

The most interesting and challenging part of the workshop was a role-playing activity where we had to negotiate aid amounts and distribution for a fictional, conflict-torn country. I was the UN official responsible for getting various NGOs, corporate interests, rebel groups, and government officials to agree to a plan. I determined that I am definitely not (yet) qualified for such a role in real life.

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