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Why Cambridge (and Hughes Hall) is for everyone

Some new faces for the New Year.

It has been difficult recently to visit Cambridge, to explore the city, and to look around its colleges and departments. So, for places like Hughes Hall with such an international community we have had to think of new ways to connect with our future students and introduce them to the college and its people.

Our Meet our students initiative has been really well received by our students and especially by people around the world, thinking about applying. Current members of our student body have volunteered to share their stories – their backgrounds, their academic interests, what they think about Hughes Hall and their experience of being at Cambridge.

These new faces have joined nearly 30 others to add their stories – and smiles – to the mix, in the hope of inspiring potential applicants everywhere to believe in themselves and have a go at applying to Cambridge, whatever their circumstances. Our students speak about the many positives in their lives now and also candidly about their early worries – from not fitting in or being too old, to being the first in their family to go to university and not seeing anyone who looks like them.

With many thanks to Mohammed, Harry, Mimaansa, Soniya, Veronica, Yasmin, Lancelot, Seb, Xinmeng, Benjamin, Katarina and others.

From left: Mohammed, Harry and Mimaansa. “It seems to me that Cambridge is what you make of it and I’ve little doubt that there is a place for anyone here” – Harry.

Mohammed Alawami, PhD in Physics, Saudi Arabia

I’m a Saudi student in my second PhD year in the physics department. My journey to Cambridge started when I met a role model who studied at Cambridge. His huge career development in Cambridge gave me a big incentive to apply. Other than my PhD research, I recently founded ReachSci, an initiative to help underrepresented students do outstanding STEM research through an 8-week research training course.

I’m still just halfway in my studies at Cambridge and I cannot wait for what lays ahead of me until I graduate.

Harry Blakiston Houston, PhD in Biotechnology, UK

I am doing a PhD in Biotechnology in the Machine Intelligence Group at the Department of Biotechnology and Chemical Engineering. I’ve always loved applying maths and computation to real world problems. I found it important whilst here to get active outside of my research. I’ve set up a podcast, I’m participating in the rescue robotics competition, I regularly attend debates, and squeeze in plenty of runs, walks and the occasional swim to Grantchester. I have been very happy in my time at Hughes.

It seems to me that Cambridge is what you make of it and I’ve little doubt that there is a place for anyone here.

Mimaansa Ghildiyal, MPhil in Archaeological Science, UK

Hi, my name’s Mimaansa, I’m from London and I’m currently studying an MPhil in Archaeological Science. Throughout my life, I’d thought that studying at Cambridge University would be unachievable, so naturally I was hesitant about applying for postgraduate study. I wasn’t sure if I would ‘fit in’ and anticipated being surrounded by students from upbringings and backgrounds completely different from mine. These apprehensions quickly disappeared after arriving at Hughes Hall. My time at college so far has been wonderful. I’ve had the privilege of meeting and being a part of a diverse community of brilliant and friendly people from all walks of life.

If a multi-cultural, friendly, and supportive college environment is what you’d hope to be a part of during your time at Cambridge University, I would encourage you to apply to Hughes Hall!

From left: Soniya, Veronica and Yasmin. “I am exactly where I’m supposed to be” – Yasmin.

Soniya Gupta, MPhil in Strategy Marketing and Operations, India

I am currently pursuing my research masters – an MPhil in Strategy, Marketing and Operations at the Judge Business School (as a Commonwealth Masters Scholar 2021 from India). I am currently the Vice President of the Cambridge Chapter of Bridges for Enterprise, and have been working on different client projects to enable small firms and micro entrepreneurs to create a sustainable impact in society.

Hughes Hall bridges the gap between diverse students from different backgrounds, especially with our mostly postgraduate international students carrying their warmth and friendly smiles around the college.

Veronica Hera, MPhil in Politics and International Studies, Romania

When I first came to the UK three years ago, I never would have thought of pursuing a postgraduate degree at the University of Cambridge. I took a chance and applied to study an MPhil in Politics and International Studies. And I’m so happy that I did.

Coming to Cambridge meant joining an amazing academic community, exploring a research topic I am truly interested in and meeting inspiring individuals with a wealth of knowledge in my field that are able to guide me through my journey. Here, there is no typical “Cambridge student”. If you’re scared of applying because you think you might not fit in, please think again. There is a place here for anyone passionate about their subject, regardless of their background.

Yasmin Lajoie, Undergraduate degree in Human, Social and Political Sciences, UK

I’m Yasmin (she/they) and I’m in my first year at Hughes Hall studying Human, Social & Political Sciences. I’m also a Reuben Scholar. I grew up in rural North Yorkshire, then spent 12 years in London working in the music industry as a major label A&R executive, then as a manager. Before I came here, I was really scared I wouldn’t fit in. I’m 15 years older than a lot of other undergraduate students, state school educated, queer, brown, disabled. One of the lovely things about Hughes is the way in which they embrace difference. I feel like, because it’s a mature college, everyone has a unique story. The staff at Hughes Hall understand this and offer so much support. They really want to see you succeed.

I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Lancelot Peng, PhD in Education, Taiwan

I graduated from MA Drama Education and English Language Teaching and am currently at Hughes, studying my PhD with the Faculty of Education. My PhD (and future) goal is to foster change through impactful engagement at the intersection of sexuality/gender, at-promise youth, and education spaces.

I’ve found it challenging and daunting to move to study in a different country as an international student, as an oftentimes socially awkward person, and (for me) as the first in family to pursue postgraduate education. How the college and faculty treat students is consequently paramount. My experience of Hughes Hall has been wonderful – I’ve met a diverse cohort of brilliant and cool people from every corner of this world, partaken in varying types of events to network, meet, and talk to people (or just to relax), and seen under-represented groups with various interests being voiced, appreciated, and encouraged.

Seb Topan, Undergraduate degree in Human, Social and Political Sciences, UK

Hey, my name is Seb and I’m a first-year undergraduate reading Human, Social, and Political Sciences (HSPS) at Hughes. Reading HSPS is not only a genuine privilege but also ever-humbling. One moment you can be studying human symbolism from 500,000 years ago, and the next you could be looking into foreign intervention in the post-2000 New World Order.

There’s so much to do in Cambridge! In my first term, I became the Amnesty International college rep, got involved in theatre and the Footlights’ workshops and went on the Varsity Ski Trip. The best attribute of Hughes is its small size: everyone knows everyone, and it’s a really welcoming and laid-back place, with good vibes.

From left: Xinmeng, Benjamin and Katarina. “To all prospective students I highly recommend applying to Hughes Hall if you want a warm, egalitarian college!” – Benjamin.

Xinmeng Tu, MPhil in Land Economy, China

Hello everyone, I am Xinmeng Tu, an MPhil Research student with the Department of Land Economy. My research is about exploring urban health states using interdisciplinary research methods, including approaches in machine learning, public health, macroeconomy, and urban planning.

Interested in meeting people from all kinds of fields, I find life at Hughes fascinating. As a mature college, Hughes accommodates students with diverse backgrounds and rich life experiences so, as a 22 year old, I can have wonderful and insightful conversations, which really broadens my horizons.

Benjamin Tuck, PhD in Clinical Neurosciences, UK

Originally from Gateshead and the first in my family to go to university, I am now in the 3rd year of my PhD in Clinical Neurosciences here at Hughes. My time as a PhD student at Cambridge has been fantastic. Hughes Hall is a friendly, inclusive, diverse and welcoming college. From day one I felt welcome and there is always an array of events on offer, academic and social, and I have made some lifelong friends at Hughes….they put a tremendous amount of effort into giving their students the best possible experience and it really shows.

To all prospective students I highly recommend applying to Hughes Hall if you want a warm, egalitarian college!

Katarina Zotovic, MPhil in Criminology, US

Hi – I’m Katarina! I was born in New York City. I am currently working on my MPhil in Criminology, with a focus on prison research and the political philosophies of prison senior management. Staying in one place for long hasn’t been my forte, and my desire to keep learning hasn’t faded, so the opportunity to continue my studies in the UK feels like a dream come true.

With a lovely staff and a wonderful location, Hughes has exceeded my expectations of life in Cambridge. Between formals and rowing to social events and evenings at the MCR bar with friends, there is always an opportunity to immerse yourself in life outside of the library.

You can read more inspiring stories on our website.

If you would like to find out more about studying or furthering your research at Hughes Hall, or applying to Cambridge, please get in touch and we’d be happy to help: ugadmissions@hughes.cam.ac.uk for undergraduate enquiries; pgadmissions@hughes.cam.ac.uk for postgraduate enquiries.

18.1.22