I arrived at King’s Cross with an owl tucked under my arm and my Hogwarts invitation in hand. Okay, so it was actually an enormous backpack and my acceptance letter to Cambridge University in England, but Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross was indeed mobbed with tourists pretending to be the newest Gryffindor students. Boarding a train at the adjacent platform 9, I sat down near a kind British couple and spent the next hour discussing with them the differences and similarities between England and America. I was surprised to learn that English citizens have up to four weeks of vacation time per year, where American citizens only have two weeks. The woman worked as a software developer and it was a dream of hers to work in the Silicon Valley to see how the California corporate environment differed from her male-dominated team. Having just lived in the heart of the Bay Area tech industry for five years, I described the fast paced and innovative startup culture of America. Finally reaching Cambridge, we said goodbye and exchanged contact information.
These two images were taken at the farmer’s market in the center of town. Vendors were selling locally grown gooseberries and currents, which are a rare find at my farmer’s market in California.
Stepping out of the train station I was greeted with jubilant cheers and song. It wasn’t my imaginary fanfare rejoicing my arrival, but rather the locals celebrating the English football team’s pivotal World Cup win and their advancement to the semi-finals. As a life-long soccer player I immediately felt at home. While I am here I hope to play with the locals and plan to watch the final games of the World Cup at the pub across the street from my room (which happens to be where Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA).
The Eagle is the pub where Watson and Crick announced their discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. As a biology major it is a true treat to see this pub from my window every day.
As the taxi shuttled me to my dorm, anxieties about my living accommodations bubbled to the surface. My program only provided a single picture and sentence about each room type, so before I left America I did some serious Google sleuthing. But there was no need to worry, as the driver left I was completely stunned by the grandeur of my living accommodations. When I walk out of my room I see the King’s College Chapel, a massive gothic structure that often has beautiful choir music drifting from its stained-glass windows and I take my meals in a dining hall that has soaring ceilings and walls adorn with portraits of past headmasters. I am continually awed by the beauty and traditions of Kings College and Cambridge University.
The King’s College Chapel and the entrance gate to King’s college. I see this every morning when I leave for class.
Living and studying in Cambridge feels unreal. I have spent the last five years studying molecular, cellular biology at the University of California Berkeley and will be finishing my undergraduate degree with this six week program. Concluding my degree in a foreign country might be untraditional, but it feels like the perfect stepping stone from college into the “real world”. I may be handing my acceptance letter to a boarder control official instead of Hagrid, but Cambridge is permeated with a different sort of magic, one that is powered by choirs in ancient chapels and friendly strangers on trains.
Me taking photos in Paris one day before leaving for England.