Meet our students
In their own words
Our fantastic students on why they chose Hughes Hall, their experience of being at Cambridge University and why they are passionate about their studies and research as well as their hopes for the future and what they think about the College and its community.
MPhil in Criminology, UK
I never thought a Cambridge education was in reach, but things changed when I began my undergrad degree and became more passionate about what I was studying. I became inspired by Criminology and was determined to apply to Cambridge to further my research interests through a Master’s degree that would equip me to enter the field of criminal justice whilst receiving the best teaching.
I chose Hughes Hall due to its small and intimate community in comparison with other colleges. The environment and location of Hughes is perfect also! My time here has been wonderful; the College staff are delightful and are always there to help you with any issues you might have or just to have a friendly conversation with. The Porters are particularly kind, which is greatly appreciated, and most of them know me by name now… that could be just because I always have packages coming through! You definitely feel the community aspect at Hughes.
For my MPhil thesis, I’m researching the experiences of Black women in female prisons in the United States. My analysis will entail a comparative focus on the historical experiences of black women during slavery and the ordeals of sexual violence, and correlate this with their treatment in the modern-day Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). I will be focusing on the narratives of these women to illuminate their marginalised voices. In future I hope to work within the US criminal justice system – being a part of change that will impact the lives of ethnic minorities through non-profit organisations or wider policymaking.
With Cambridge as a whole, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here and made life-long friends from all over the world. It has been somewhat challenging as a Black woman, not seeing many individuals that look like you, however I flipped the narrative and continuously told myself that I deserve to be here as much as anyone else. I think it is important not to lose sight of who you are within a predominately White institution, and instead to recognise yourself as an asset to anywhere you go. There are people here just like you who are experiencing the same feelings and you will not be isolated. Various societies such as the Cambridge University African Caribbean Society and the Cambridge University Nigeria Society help too. Don’t let anything deter you from applying!
PhD in Infection and Immunity, Cambridge-Africa Scholar, Nigeria
Dr Ernest Aguinam
I completed my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree at the University of Maiduguri and worked at the Ministry of Agriculture, Akwa Ibom state, Nigeria as a veterinary clinician before establishing a veterinary clinic. But I wanted to broaden my knowledge and impact a greater population through research, so I applied to Cambridge and was accepted at Hughes Hall to pursue a research-based MPhil in Veterinary Science at the Laboratory of Viral Zoonotics, Department of Veterinary Medicine. After completing my MPhil in 2019, I volunteered as a visiting researcher to assist COVID-19 vaccine development at my host laboratory. During this time, I was also accepted for a PhD which I began in October 2020.
I had a fantastic experience at Hughes Hall during my MPhil so it was only natural to return to the College for my PhD. The diversity of the student population at Hughes provides a real uniqueness to the College. As I enjoy music and sports, playing badminton with the College badminton club and meeting with the many music lovers within College are good ways to unwind from the academic demands of Cambridge.
For my PhD, I am investigating protective immune responses to Lassa virus infection, a serious haemorrhagic fever endemic to West Africa. With a focus on cellular immunity, I am aiming to identify correlates of protection from the disease and to develop a model for the testing of cross protection against the different strains of Lassa virus discovered so far. My current research also includes studying immunity to Sars-Cov-2 in humans following natural infection or in response to vaccination. The aim is to better understand how the body reacts to the virus to inform improved medical countermeasures against the virus. My PhD, supported by the Cambridge Trust through the Cambridge-Africa Scholarship, is a great opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills to contribute more widely to improving public health, particularly in Africa.
PhD in Computer Science, Pakistan
Marwish is doing a PhD in Computer Science, is a Research Assistant in the Computer Architecture Group, and Chair of Women@CL.
I did my undergraduate degree in Pakistan, in Electrical and Electronics Engineering. I then joined the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (national space agency) as an embedded systems engineer. I was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship funded by the UK government to study for a Master’s degree in Computer Science after which I worked at Queen’s University, Belfast, as a Researcher in High Performance and Distributed Computing. I was then offered a Research Assistantship at the University of Cambridge in the Computer Architecture group and started my PhD studies at Hughes Hall last year.
I am working to develop a software framework for computer security and my research interests include parallel programming, multi/many-core architectures, security, compilers and binary translation. Other than my research, I love to teach and have been running supervisions for undergraduate modules here at Cambridge. I am also proud of my role as Chair of Women@CL, a network to support women in computing research in their careers and encourage them to aspire to leadership positions, both in academia and industry.
Computer science is one of the very few fields where you can be both creative and innovative and make big impact even from your couch. Ignore all the stereotypical images you may have seen about the “boring” computer science geeks. It is a lot of fun and really satisfying when you see even the smallest piece of code that you have developed working.
Before starting my PhD, I had visited Hughes a few times with friends who were already members and found the community to be very welcoming and friendly. As it’s a postgrad and mature student community, I find it quite easy and relatable to talk to other members. Hughes Hall goes an extra mile to encourage you and celebrate your achievements.
PhD in Education, UK
Having retired in my sixties, I gave the next stage of my life considerable thought. A quiet retirement didn’t appeal so I decided, in my 69th year, to take up a place at Hughes Hall and enrol at the Faculty of Education to study for an MPhil in Education Research. I have since enrolled in the Education PhD programme.
Several ideas, ambitions and life events gradually came together to bring me to a point in my life where these decisions seemed inevitable and right. As an architect, I had tutored young architects both in my own practice and in a number of universities. The, in the late 1990’s, I retrained as a teacher to enjoy the next 16 years of life teaching schoolchildren how to design and make things. When I hit my 66th, I decided to ‘retire’ (I hate the R word) and treat myself to a couple of gap years to think about what I wanted to do next.
It had long been an ambition to study at Cambridge; and being only an hour or so’s drive from London meant that I could continue looking after my elderly mum in north London. On top of that my daughter and grandchildren live here, and I knew that they would appreciate help with childcare.
Hughes Hall was a more involved decision. I knew I didn’t want to be in a college with youngsters who I’d only recently been teaching so I looked at the six Cambridge colleges that limit their intake to the over-21s. Then it was a matter of location and the level of involvement with the education community – I already knew I’d be studying something to do with education. That narrowed the field to Darwin or Hughes Hall. I visited both at the post-graduate Open Day to get the feel of both places. My wife came with – she’s good at this kind of thing. In the end, Hughes just felt right.
The MPhil in Education Research was the perfect course for me. I was looking for an opportunity to make some sense of what I’d been doing in the previous few decades and to read things that I should have read a long time ago. Fortunately, the Faculty was offering a very open-ended course that not only promised guided reading and access to the brilliant library system but a structured course in research methods – I like learning new skills.
Hughes was a delight – everyone was so charming. I was even allowed to win the Three Minute Thesis competition. I think I got the sympathy vote! The Faculty of Education staff and facilities were inspiring, and I enjoyed the whole business of academic research. And so, having achieved a sufficiently high mark in my MPhil, I enrolled in the Education PhD programme.
Undergraduate degree in History, UK
My name’s Patrick, I’m a first year History undergraduate and one of two social secretaries for the MCR student body. I’ve lived in London all my life and went to school there too, so have really enjoyed getting out of the city for a change! Since leaving school, I have also worked in France and South Africa to get some experience before heading to uni. As an undergrad, I took a few years out between leaving school and coming to Hughes Hall which was a unique situation to be in – as a result it was so nice to get to Hughes Hall and meet other undergrads who had been in the exact same situation as me, as well as loads of other really friendly students, many much older than me.
What made me choose Cambridge for a History BA is probably the chance to study first-hand from leaders in their respective fields, on one of the highest ranked History courses in the world. It’s fair to say I haven’t regretted that choice! The chance to pick the periods that you study from the outset is a unique part of the Cambridge History course and means that the work is always really interesting and engaging.
Life at Hughes Hall is definitely fun, and this is probably my favourite thing about it – there’s always lots to be doing, and lots of people to meet. It’s such a friendly College and, with it being such an international community, so many interesting people to meet as well.
A typical day for me usually looks like…an early-ish wake-up, breakfast, and then a bit of work over in the Margaret Wileman building. I then usually get lunch in College before working until 4 or 5ish, and taking the rest of the day off. With this schedule, I usually manage to get the weekend off from work which is nice! I normally manage to balance this work schedule with some exercise most days, and then spend the evenings with friends.
I am really looking forward to arranging some great events and activities for you all next year. Hughes Hall is a special place to be.
PhD in Molecular Biology, Captain of the women’s boat crew, UK
I am in my third year of my PhD in molecular biology. I worked in Cambridge for one year on an industrial placement during my undergrad degree and enjoyed living here so much I decided to return here for my PhD.
I have loved being a part of Hughes Hall as the college has such a friendly and welcoming vibe. The highlight of my time here so far has definitely been learning to row; I had a go at rowing in my first year here and loved it, and have now been the women’s captain for the past year and a half. I would definitely encourage new students to give something different a try when you come to Cambridge as through doing so, I have made some friends for life.
Undergraduate degree in English, UK
Before studying at Hughes Hall, I was training to be a professional dancer and dance teacher, after a change of heart following that, I began working full time in a restaurant. I had never considered attending a “mature” college before, but Hughes Hall gave me a way back into education that took into account my unusual, and slightly delayed route to University.
Studying English at Hughes allows me to explore the arts with a group of students who have had such different life experiences to my own – in this way Hughes facilitates not only a broader understanding of my subject, but also of people and life more generally. The College has such a diverse cohort who I have found to be overwhelmingly welcoming and inclusive. I am so glad that I took the time out before going to university, and even gladder that the decisions I made pre-university led me to studying at Hughes Hall, somewhere I wouldn’t have even considered had I applied at the age of 18.
PhD in Education, China
Hello everyone! My name is Lydia. I am a second-year PhD student in the Faculty of Education. My research is situated at the intersection of educational technology, design, and social equity. My doctoral research uses mixed-reality simulation to address the contextual nature of dialogic teaching and the complexity of moment-to-moment interactions in classroom discourse. I am currently co-designing a professional development with teachers in Pakistan to support their dialogic teaching practice.
I chose Hughes Hall as I was drawn to a mature college and its active education community. Hughes Hall is a friendly village where you will meet people from all walks of life studying all kinds of fascinating subjects. I met most of my peers by just going to the dining hall, where I also had some of the best conversations. The staff are very warm and friendly, and you know you can rely on the porters – they always know the answer, or they will help you to figure it out. Hughes Hall is also a welcoming space for you to try new things. I learned rowing with the women’s team here, who are very encouraging and supportive.
My favourite place in Hughes Hall is the garden, an absolute piece of art. The gardeners are meticulous with their craft and take care of all the living things. I spent my first year in on-site accommodation. The staff made sure we have a clean and comfortable living environment, and I enjoyed hanging out with my roommates in the kitchen.
PhD in Chemistry, Italy
Andrea Di Antonio
I’m about to complete a PhD in Chemistry at Hughes Hall on new methodologies allowing low-cost air quality sensors to measure ambient Particulate Matter concentrations accurately. I am also president and founder of the Hughes Hall Pizza Society, served as MCR Committee Welfare Officer, May Ball Committee Food Officer and Captain of the football team.
I have always been passionate about Atmospheric Science since high school, so I followed this passion and started an MSc in Atmospheric Physics. I enjoyed the subject so much that I applied for a PhD position at Cambridge. Being new to the University of Cambridge, I was not aware of how the College system worked and opted not to indicate a College preference in the application. While waiting for the application results, I got to know some Hughes Hall students who made me wish I’d put Hughes Hall as my preference. When I received my offer, I was thrilled to get Hughes Hall anyway!
I immediately felt welcomed from my first day, and it did not take long to consider Hughes Hall as my home away from home. I wanted to fully enjoy my time with the students and play a role in making new students feel welcomed as much as I did. So, I ran as Welfare Officer for the MCR Committee and as Food Officer for the May Ball committee. Being a great football fan, I also joined the Hughes Hall Football Club, which I had the privilege to guide as Captain.
As part of my various roles, I contacted most of the College staff. I quickly realised how kind they were. From the tutorial office to the conference team, the catering staff to the maintenance team, and housekeeping to the nurse, everyone was always keen to help. In particular, the porters’ team are just great. They are available 24/7 to help out and always with a smile. I am also grateful to the accommodation team, who did everything they could to help me get couple’s accommodation when I decided to move in with my girlfriend. The more time I spent at Hughes Hall, the happier I was to give back something to this exceptional community. After four beautiful years, my time at Hughes Hall is about to be over. I successfully defended my PhD thesis and recently started working for an organisation facilitating the transition to electric vehicles to reduce pollutant emissions.
PhD in Materials Science and Metallurgy, Mauritius
Dr Sheen Gurrib
I recently completed my PhD in back pain research at the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy. I am originally from Mauritius, a sunny island off the east coast of Madagascar, and I am the first Mauritian woman to have attended both Oxford (where I completed my undergrad in Materials Science) and Cambridge universities.
When I was applying to Cambridge, I knew that I wanted a different vibe this time around. As a postgrad, I wanted a mature and international college which is why I chose Hughes Hall. It was definitely the right choice! I remember meeting my housemates in our shared kitchen – we were from seven different countries! The diversity of Hughes Hall is incredible. On Matriculation day, for the photo, I was standing next to a 60-year-old who decided to go back to university to study law after retiring from a different career, and every time I go to the Hall for dinner or to yoga every Tuesday in the college gym, the nature of conversation varies, depending on whether I meet my ‘matsci’ friends, musicians, or educationalists.
Fascinated by medical research, especially the man-made apparatuses that are used inside the human body, I joined a lab in Cambridge offering a project at the intersectionality of academic research and real-life application in the healthcare system. I got to work with orthopaedic surgeons, vets, physicists, biologists, and medical instrument suppliers. I was invited to present my research at five international conferences – Hughes Hall bursaries covered the cost of attending!
I made the best use of my time here, getting involved with initiatives to assist with go-to-market strategies; joined a global health think-tank to help publish a policy brief on the mental health of refugees in the UK, and entered an industry competition to design robots! Having joined the global health branch of The Bridge at Hughes Hall and organising a series of lectures, I was on the steering committee which organised the first ever Life Science symposium for the College. There have been lots of opportunities to gain valuable experience and transferrable skills, both in College and the wider University. This led me to co-found an educational charity, and more recently I have set up a pro-bono consulting company for SMEs, NGOs and start-ups.
Overall, my time in Cambridge has been absolutely wonderful! I learnt so much, met so many interesting people, broadened my horizons and, most importantly, I had a bucket load of fun! Cambridge can get high paced and overwhelming– having a close-knit and warm environment to come back to at Hughes Hall is crucial.
PhD in Education, UK
I came to Hughes Hall to do my PhD in Education as a mature student with three young children. As the first person in my family to go to university, let alone do a PhD, I felt a range of emotions. I was really excited to be studying in Cambridge but studying as a parent seemed daunting at times. However, I couldn’t have been in a better place than Hughes Hall.
I’m so grateful for the support of everyone there (including the times I shed a few tears). I felt part of a community that wanted me to succeed as much as I did myself, and there was always someone friendly to ask if I had a question. It wasn’t only the support that made Hughes Hall such a good place to study: there were lots of opportunities to get involved in College life, and lots of interesting events happening. The Bridge and Oracy Centre events were particularly interesting to me, but I also got to dip into things that were new to me, such as the music evenings and talks about different subjects. I also liked taking my children to the Family Welcome days, it was a great way of meeting other parents and letting my children see what I was up to all day! I’m so pleased that Hughes Hall is my College.
Master’s in Psychology, UK
I was studying A-level ethics and philosophy (I went to a great all-girls state school in the East Midlands) and there was a module about the nature of the mind which looked at sensation, perception, intelligence, memory, and free will, which I found fascinating. This inspired me to do a Psychology BSc degree, after which I was accepted at Hughes Hall to do a Master’s in Psychology. I hope to be a clinical psychologist in the future. For my MPhil thesis, I am exploring ‘Maternal perception of postnatal bonding and infant behaviour during COVID-19 in the UK’. This is a qualitative study looking at how new mothers in the postpartum period have bonded with their infants in lockdown. I am also working at Cambridge Babylab looking at ‘COVID-19 in the Context of Pregnancy, Infancy and Parenting’.
My experience of Hughes Hall itself has been great; College staff are really supportive and always there for you in times of need. Hughes is a welcoming and warm place – there’s a great sense of community. Some students may have concerns about not fitting in, expecting to only meet private school students, fears of their experience as a person of colour not being understood. These are valid concerns to have when you have experienced inequality before. I would say to BAME and state school applicants that there is a space for you here no matter what background you are from and you will meet like-minded people who look like you.
In my experience, the University has a proactive and inclusive approach to equality and encourages under-represented groups to apply. I have enjoyed meeting fellow students also from ethnic minority backgrounds through University events and happy to see that their extraordinary achievements are being voiced, valued and supported. I am involved with ‘ClickCambridge’ which is an online programme to support Black, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Arab and other ethnic minority students with the information and skills needed to apply to leading British universities. It’s great to see such initiatives helping to widen access, acknowledge the very apparent problem of underrepresentation in higher education and being proactive in tackling the inequality of ethnic minorities within education. Don’t let imposter syndrome hold you back from achieving greatness!
MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History, Canada
I started university at an alternative college on an isolated ranch in rural California called “Deep Springs” where, with a student body of 30, in addition to a traditional American liberal arts education, I spent about four or five hours a day either working with cattle, irrigating alfalfa fields, or milking cows. I then transferred to McGill in Montreal and became really interested in the history of financial crises and the history of banking. Now I’m pursuing an MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History, studying currency politics in the early 20th century and the political thought of John Maynard Keynes.
The Hughes Hall community is really friendly, and I especially appreciate its proximity to the food and shops on Mill Road, and Parker’s Piece.
Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), France/Ireland
I moved from Paris to Montreal with my family when I was 12. I stayed there for ten years, completing my secondary schooling, and doing an undergraduate degree at McGill University. I then moved back to Paris for a year, before coming to do my PGCE at Hughes Hall. I’ve known for a while now that I wanted to become a teacher and I was keen to train as a primary school teacher in a setting where I would be exposed to the most up to date educational theoretical research, which led me to enrol in a PGCE at Cambridge.
I have had a great time this year at Hughes Hall. The staff are very welcoming and kind, and I have met lots of interesting people. Going to a mature college has given me the opportunity to swap stories, exchange skills, develop and enhance my world views with people coming from a range of different backgrounds and with very diverse experiences. I have been able to make some great friends at Hughes and have truly enjoyed my time living in College.
PhD in Public Health and Primary Care and GP, UK
I am a GP partner in a rural practice near Ely and a Hughes Hall PhD student. I am funded by the Wellcome Trust and split my time between research and general practice. In general practice, this has been a time of huge transformation and I now work in a way I couldn’t have imagined 12 months ago, with the majority of my consultations now being either by telephone or video. The vast majority of my patients now have same day access to clinicians instead of 2-3 weeks’ wait for routine appointments.
I’m lucky that my PhD research was amenable to being paused during the pandemic and grateful for the flexibility shown by the College, Department and University in allowing me to meet my clinical commitments. I don’t think general practice or academic life are ever going to be the same again, but I hope by this time next year we can meet and discuss changes in person rather than over zoom.
Undergraduate degree in English Literature, UK
Having grown up on a council estate in Hertford and attended a local state school, I sometimes felt Cambridge wasn’t meant for me due to all the mythology and rumours you hear at secondary school. It sounds cliché, but Hughes Hall made me realise that this university is for everybody, especially this college, which wears its diverse demographic as a badge of honour and celebrates difference any chance it gets (such as with BAME and LGBTQ+ Formals). I have found the college community to be exceptionally friendly and welcoming; the tutor system is a wonderful way of touching base if you need some extra help and the on-site nurse is kind and attentive.
I have also found the senior staff to be very accommodating and considerate in their approach to students with neurodiversity – something that overthrew my preconception of Cambridge as a rather Draconian institution, emphasising academic rigour above all else which is not the case. There are a wealth of societies to join as well as talks on myriad subjects which can help broaden the horizons of your degree even in fields completely unrelated to your own.
I ended up taking three gap years before being absorbed by the Hughesian community. Having applied to one college and narrowly missing entry requirements of another, I took a gap year and travelled thinking Cambridge might be a pipe a pipe dream. I took another shot but took another shot (to another college!) and was relieved and overjoyed to eventually receive an unconditional offer from Hughes Hall (a college I had never researched, being a mature one and me, initially, being seduced by the Hogwartsian spires of the colleges you find on postcards).
It seems Cambridge was meant for me, though I was still to matriculate in two years once I was old enough to put my name in the Triwizard cup. So I worked as a sales assistant for John Lewis, a children’s book editor for Bloomsbury, I established my own dog-sitting company, and even wrote and published a children’s book for a charity whose ethos of equality would be matched by the college where I was soon to be initiated as an undergraduate English Literature student: a far cry (or so I thought) from the Zoology I initially toyed with applying for elsewhere. Indeed, I’m particularly passionate about ecocriticism and researching anthrozoology (the study of the relationships between humans and animals), how these have evolved over time, such as changes in petkeeping, and been reflected in the literature of the period.
In this way, the linear chronology of Part 1 of Tripos has cultivated my interests, rooted them in historical relevance, and refined them into a sort of undergraduate speciality. I hope to take what I learn at Cambridge and apply it to a creative career which straddles the disciplines of literature and animal science. If you know what that is, hit me up!
The supervisions at Cambridge, the sheer variety of topics and the inspiring guidance of supervisors mean I now love the thought of dedicating my life to academia and applying all the knowledge I’ve accumulated to help point others towards resources in the right direction.
In terms of advice for hopeful applicants, I would say: don’t be afraid to stand out and stick with your gut; if I had fully taken on board my teacher’s advice to rewrite my personal statement, I might have never received an interview invitation – Cantabrigians are not one homogenous species and being sui generis is rewarded.
MPhil in English Studies: Criticism and Culture, Hong Kong
Siu Yau Jesse Ng
As a born-and-raised Hong Konger, I applied to Cambridge with the hope of researching the cultural representations of human rights movements in Hong Kong. Through my MPhil in Criticism and Culture, I aspire to promote socially aware, culturally sensitive and historically informed representations of postcolonial cultures which to this day are still subject to stereotypes and marginalisation.
As the first person in my family to pursue a master’s degree, I chose Hughes Hall so that I can receive the academic and pastoral support I need at a mature college. Despite the worries caused by the anti-Asian sentiments during COVID-19, Hughes Hall has made me feel at home and reassured many students with the heart-warming care and financial support it has generously given this year.
All students at Hughes are 21 or above and I have learnt tremendously from discussing how we can enrich our learning with our previous studies and work experience. Indeed, as I served as a telephone campaign caller for the college this year, I have been assured by the creative ways many alumni have applied their studies to bring positive changes to the world. My experience interacting with scholars from a diversity of backgrounds has challenged my thinking and encouraged me to research the potential lines of solidarity among different social movements in the world. As one of the most international colleges at Cambridge, Hughes Hall has played a significant role in diversifying and decolonising the university.
As a first-generation university student from Hong Kong, Cambridge always seemed to be a distant dream but Hughes Hall has shown me that, with hope, anything can happen. If you have a goal to make the world a better place and are determined to contribute back to the college and society, I encourage you to apply to Hughes Hall.
Master of Finance (MFin), Ghana
My name is Prince Nyamekye and I studied the Master of Finance (MFin) programme at the Judge Business School.
I come from Amakom, a wonderful town in Kumasi in the Ashanti region of Ghana in West Africa. I obtained my undergraduate degree in Accounting from the University of Cape Coast, Ghana. I completed the chartered accountancy programme as well. Prior to joining the MFin programme, I worked with KPMG for 3 years.
Growing up, it had always been my dream to attend Oxbridge due to their rich history, prestige and global brand recognition. I finally settled on University of Cambridge as the Finance programme was more interesting for me than its equivalent at Oxford. Post studies, I will be joining the International Finance Corporation (IFC) under the World Bank Group in the Washington DC office as an investment analyst. I am passionate about development finance and IFC’s work align with my passion of helping promote economic growth and development in emerging economies including Sub-Saharan Africa.
Before joining Hughes Hall, I had conversations with both current students and alumni, and they spoke highly of the College. And so far, I have enjoyed my time here at the University, College and the Cambridge city. I have made some lifetime friends at Hughes Hall and am hoping to keep in touch even after my studies. Some of the key reasons why I love Hughes is its effort to promote diversity and inclusion. During the academic year, the College organized several BAME events which I enjoyed very much.
When I joined the College, the MCR organized an African students meet up and it was through that event I got to meet and make friends with fellow Black students. We still keep in touch from time to time. The staff here are also nice and will do everything to make you feel included and right at home. Your weekend evenings could never be boring when you visit the College’s marquee bar. The bar serves drinks at low prices, and you would also get the opportunity to relax, meet and talk to other people. I also got the opportunity to attend College formal with my friends and I enjoyed every bit of the experience.
Overall, my time here has been delightful! I have enjoyed every bit of my one-year academic journey. I would not trade the memories for anything in the world. Finally, I would totally recommend Hughes Hall to anyone looking to apply for a College place.
PhD in Land Economy and International Law, Canada
Raised in London, Ontario, Canada and observing the hardships associated with the closure of factories as jobs migrated overseas, I gained a strong drive to address global challenges which had local impacts. Working internationally has since given me a rich perspective on global challenges related to climate change and biodiversity, and a drive to contribute to crafting equitable solutions to enable sustainable development. In the future I hope to be working internationally advancing robust responses to climate change and facilitating sustainable development.
Before coming to Cambridge, I received an Honours Bachelor of Science at Eastern Michigan University, a Master of Arts in Diplomacy and International Relations at the Seton Hall University School of Diplomacy and International Relations, a Bachelor of Laws from Dalhousie University with a specialization in International Environmental Law, and a Master of Laws in Intellectual Property Law from the University of Ottawa. I also got international experience working in sustainable development law supporting various international organisations and was Senior Research Associate and Fellow in the International Law Research Program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.
My PhD research focuses on how market mechanisms in international law and trading relationships can be used effectively to create incentives for sustainable development in the face of climate change and declining marine and terrestrial biodiversity. This examination of international legal regimes looks to inform how they could be modified to facilitate a just transition to a more sustainable future. As Coordinator of the Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professorship, I’ve also had the opportunity to convene world-leading dialogues on issues of a critical nature to the global community, and contribute to collaborative research with a wide range of research initiatives and institutes across the University, including Cambridge Zero, Hughes Hall Centre for Climate Change Engagement and the Bennett Institute for Public Policy.
Hughes Hall is an exceptional environment for study. Staff and administration in the college are genuinely committed to the wellbeing of the Hughes community connecting with the students on both a professional and personal level, and creating a rich culture of inclusivity, understanding, and equality. The students of Hughes Hall are equally exceptional. Truly global in nature and spanning a breadth of disciplines, the predominantly graduate level students bring a range of informed perspectives to the challenges facing our generation. Simply put, Hughes Hall is a fantastic place to call an intellectual home during your time at Cambridge.
The best advice I can offer to prospective students or researchers is come to Hughes Hall and get involved. A host of opportunities are available through the Bridge centres, the Hughes Hall Centre for Climate Change Engagement, and Cambridge Zero to engaging in world-leading climate action. Student leadership opportunities through discipline-specific organizations, MCR, or athletics all work to enrich your overall experience. Having served in successive years as the Vice-President then President of the Hughes Hall Law Students Society, organizational involvement provides an opportunity to engage with unique issues, build enduring collaborations, and most importantly be of service to the university community.
PhD in Psychiatry, MCR LGBTQ+ and Equality Officer, UK
Before coming to Hughes, I completed a BSc in Psychology and an MSc in Mental Health, Ethics and Law. My interests centre around supporting people with mental health conditions and other neurodevelopmental conditions, and I have worked in various mental health and social care services over the years. As a prospective PhD student, I knew Cambridge would be my home for several years. I was therefore keen to make friends and meet people who were a similar age or at a similar stage in their academic career. Hughes Hall was an obvious choice being a mature college with a high proportion of postgraduate students. Hughes also had the huge plus of offering many of its students accommodation in a central, and quiet location.
I am in my third year of my PhD in Psychiatry. The highlights are the intellectual freedom and being able to create research that I am passionate about. My project is interdisciplinary and has allowed me to bring together interests in law, ethics and psychiatry. My interest in intellectual disability (the subject of my PhD) has grown through voluntary roles and work opportunities. My graduate job involved advocating for people with intellectual disabilities, which illuminated to me the discrimination and access-barriers that people with intellectual disabilities face every day. So, I pursued a Master’s in the relevant areas of ethics and law, which led to the PhD I work on today.
I have loved being a student at Hughes. It is small enough to have a strong community feel, but large enough to provide plenty of opportunities to meet people from diverse backgrounds and with different interests. It is a comfortable, welcoming place to call home. I have recently taken on the role of MCR Equality and LGBTQ+ Officer and have really enjoyed hosting events and disseminating information to promote equality and inclusion across the College. It’s also been a great opportunity to work more closely with College staff, who have supported my efforts to promote student welfare.
I have been part of several sports teams, including the netball team and the boat club which have been very welcoming to people of all levels and abilities. This year, I have also been fortunate to be part of Hughes Hall’s Impact Leadership Programme which has been a valuable space to reflect on my strengths, values and ambitions as I start thinking about life beyond my PhD.
My advice for anyone hoping to go to Cambridge is to identify what is important to you in a College – for me it was a high proportion of postgraduate students, good accommodation options, and close proximity to my department.
I’ve always wanted to do an MBA, as my father was a Wharton MBA. My father passed away three years ago, but he taught me to be an entrepreneur- that I should always fight for my ideal life, and if my dream job didn’t exist, I should build it myself. My father was an athlete as well, and showed me that to do great things, ones’ mind and body should be in sync and always ready for battle.
I rowed for University of California at Berkeley, winning NCAAs in 2013 before switching to hammer throw in Track and Field. I started playing with the Berkeley All Blues Rugby Club a few years after graduating university, as a way to continue my athletics career, and absolutely fell in love with the sport. I’ve been playing for the Women’s Premier League in the US for the last 4 years in the Bay Area, where I also ran my own tutoring company and coached Men’s Master’s rowing.
I chose Hughes Hall because of the emphasis on sport and the inclusive community it promoted. I wanted to live in an environment where who I loved didn’t define me.
I love the ‘start-up life’: the hands on mentality of quickly solving problems as they appear and viewing the company through a broad lens of projected growth. I wish to either start another company, or work for a start-up in the UK.
The Varsity Match was like the culmination of my 12 years of athletic training. I was beyond excited, to a point where I constantly needed to remind myself to breathe and remain calm. The pandemic has made it difficult to train with teammates at the highest level, so I am grateful that the Hughes Hall rowing team lent me an ergometer during lockdown so that I could continue to train, stay fit, and stay sane through a difficult time.
Undergraduate degree in Human, Social, and Political Sciences, US
Hi! I’m Benny and I’m a first-year student from Atlanta, Georgia studying Human, Social, and Political Sciences at Hughes Hall. Having come from a state school in the United States and having completed two years of university in the US before coming to Cambridge, I initially thought that I would struggle to fit into the British university culture, as well as struggle to fit into Hughes as a whole. However, from the second that I arrived at Hughes Hall, I was made to feel welcome by the student body and the Hughes administration.
This inclusivity is really something that you can feel walking around the College grounds ––from passing by people speaking different languages, meeting others with diverse backgrounds, and engaging with activities that you never thought you would be involved with. Hughes Hall has made me feel like a part of the community and has enabled me to get involved with the Cambridge community at large.
At Cambridge, I have been able to become involved with extracurricular activities that align with both my professional and personal interests. My first year, I served as Returning Officer at the Cambridge Union, facilitating the electoral process for the society. As a mature state school student from the United States, serving in a leadership role in the Union was something that I did not think I could do before I arrived at Cambridge. Furthermore, in an attempt to help increase access to Cambridge, I served as Shadowing Scheme Mentor for the Student Union, a position that allowed me to aid prospective state school applicants with their application process.
This process has enabled me to work with applicants from marginalized backgrounds who might not have been exposed to the Cambridge application process before. This work has been rewarding in itself as I now am able to use my experiences of the process to help others gain access to Cambridge. When applying to Cambridge, I thought that my experiences would not allow me to fit into the University life as a whole, however, bolstered by Hughes Hall’s nontraditional approach to the Cambridge college, I have been able to explore my interests, both in and outside of the classroom.
Undergraduate degree in Biological Anthropology, UK
Hi – I’m Georgie, an undergraduate studying biological anthropology. I grew up on a council estate in my hometown, Peterborough, and went to a state school. I never expected that Cambridge University could be an option for someone with my background, with no other family members that had ever attended university. After leaving school, I received a scholarship to study at Nanjing University of Finance and Economics, China, where I learned Mandarin and immersed myself in a new and interesting culture. I then undertook full-time work and started my career in the travel industry before having to take a large break from life due to my health, which made me reconsider everything.
My journey with disability/chronic illness has been a turbulent one. After years of struggling with various seemingly unrelated issues, I was eventually diagnosed with a rare genetic condition at aged 20. Following my diagnosis, several of my other family members were also found to have had the condition, and it has impacted all our lives in more ways than I can describe. I spent a year bedbound in which I did a lot of thinking, and eventually managed to recover to a point of being able to re-join life, with a renewed sense of direction. Advocacy became my world, and I now write and make YouTube videos supporting others.
My own experiences also sparked an interest in genetics, human evolution and how it is connected to modern-day human health and disease. I hope that one day we can better understand these mechanisms, and I would love to work as a genetic counsellor or conducting research with the goal of helping patients and their families who are affected with rare disorders. And what better place to do this than Cambridge, and in a massively supportive community like Hughes Hall.
My main concerns coming to university were fitting in and receiving the welfare support I needed. Life at Hughes has gone above and beyond – the fantastic team of Welfare staff, College Nurse, Porters etc. are always on hand, and student wellbeing is always made a priority. There is a wide range of events and social space to utilise that as a disabled student I felt I had access to and met my needs. I have also had the opportunity to work this year as the new MCR Female and Non-Binary Welfare Officer, running projects from drop-in gardening to welfare social picnics and much more to come.
My best advice – there’s no ‘one type of person’ in Cambridge, and certainly not at Hughes. Don’t be afraid to come here exactly as you are – you will be accepted, supported and you can make Cambridge your own and you can thrive here. And if that’s the kind of supportive space you’re looking for – Hughes is the place for you. Take it from the tattooed, LGBTQ+, disabled student and co-President of the Cambridge University Witch Society!
PhD in Land Economy and Edwin Leong Scholar, China
Joseph Hongsheng Zhao
My name is Joseph Hongsheng Zhao, a second year PhD candidate in Land Economy and at the Centre for the Studies of Global Human Movements. I am a Chinese student who went through the College Entrance Exam (Gaokao) track and studied in Hong Kong and Canada. I served as a research assistant at the National University of Singapore before coming to Cambridge for an MPhil in Planning Growth and Regeneration.
I appreciate Hughes Hall as it is the most diverse college with global connections including regions like east Asia. My undergraduate college in Hong Kong had a strong connection with Hughes Hall and I was inspired by several Hughes alumni to apply for Cambridge. I was also lucky enough to be an Edwin Leong Hughes Hall Scholar with a full-scholarship provided jointly by Hughes Hall to read an MPhil and continued as a PhD.
During my three years at Hughes Hall, with changed research direction from spatial planning system to regional development and migration studies, I have found the College to be a most suitable community for intellectual development and life in general. I particularly enjoy the open-mindedness of people who are willing to share their adequate working and life experience before coming to Hughes.
My one piece of advice for the offer holders is the best community may not be of “big names” but is one that fits your ambition, character and sentiment. I cannot applaud Hughes more for its motto of “Disce ut Servias” (learn to serve/ 服务学习). Brought up under a Confusionist tradition I have benefited significantly from other people’s service, which motivated me to join societies like “Street Bite for the Cambridge homeless”, the “Migration Studies Group” and Hughes Hall itself, to better utilize my research strength to impact on others’ lives. If you have a big humble heart and want to serve, Hughes Hall is the best place for you in Cambridge.
Undergraduate degree in Economics, China/Singapore
My name is Hector; I was born in Shanghai and grew up in Singapore. I am currently an Economics finalist at Hughes Hall College.
As my journey here at Hughes Hall comes to an end, I can say that I am extremely fortunate to have been a member of this wonderful College and to have had the pleasure of knowing such a diverse group of talented, friendly and extraordinarily intelligent students.
I was welcomed with open arms into a nurturing community that afforded me an incredible three years here. I now leave knowing that the College will always be there for me, wherever I go.