Independence Day: Goodbye Cambridge
Trying to be somewhat poetic, I picked July 4th (American Independence Day) as the day that I would say goodbye to Cambridge and move north to my new home in Durham University.
How I’ll remembmer my room, E8 Burrell’s Field.
Before I get a mushy and sentimental, I should note that there is no other aspect of student life that causes me to groan more than having to move. As an undergraduate I moved all of my worldly belongings three times a year: from academic-term housing to summer-term housing to interim housing before the following aacdemic term. While it was nice to live in nearly every undergrad dormitory on campus, the tedium of boxes and suitcases tends to take its toll. As one of many international students in Cambridge, I can now appreciate that this process must have been even more difficult for those students who didn’t have the luxury of dropping off boxes with parents across the state.
I realised that I’m getting old when I caught myself passing by a kitchen appliance store and longing for a time when I could have my own apartment with my own pots and pans and not have to worry about packing them up every academic term. Luckily that day isn’t too far on the horizon — after Durham I’ll finally jump into a PhD programme where I can settle in a bit. So on that note, this will also be an Independence-Day(-in-waiting) from constant relocation. Maybe one day I’ll have a stable-enough home where I can have a dog. Do academics get to have pets before tenure?
Anyway, today was my last day walking around the Centre for Mathematical Sciences and the Cambridge market. I said my goodbyes to the department and to my favourite hang-outs. As if to acknowledge my departure, the city treated me to a typical Cambridge day of sunshine, thunderstorms, and sunshine again.
The hardest thing, however, is being one of the last students to leave. Despite only being together for one year, many of the international students became very close — perhaps due to combination of coming to Cambridge knowing few (if any) other students, similar academic interests, and shared pre-examination misery. Many—but not all—of my friends will be returning to Cambridge next year, though it doesn’t help that I won’t be. Saying goodbye as they left one-by-one left me drained even more than packing. So, on that note, this will also be a reluctant (and a little teary) Independence Day from the camraderie of some of my favourite mathematicians.
Of course, since I’ll still be in the UK for the next year, I’m also hopeful about the possibility of seeing my colleagues at conferences. Down the road, even if I’m in North America for my PhD, I can still look forward to seeing them at the large international meetings that bring various physics communities together. This is one of the great perks about being an academic that makes up for the [orders of magnitude] difference in salary that compared to investment-bankers and consultants. That, however, presupposes the progression from course-based undergraduate education to research-based graduate work. This is the excitement that my friends and I can look forward to in the near future. I already have some “Standard Model background” Feynman diagrams to calculate on the train to Durham. Finally, then, this will be an Independence Day from homework and the beginning of a research career.
So, to everyone, happy Independence Day.
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