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Some Perks Of Life At The ‘Other’ Cambridge by Cambridge

[by Mirat Shah '08] Along with ~40 other MIT students, I am studying abroad at Cambridge University in the UK.

[by Mirat Shah ’08]

My name is Mirat and I am a junior studying Course 3 (Materials Science and Engineering). I grew up in New Jersey and spent the past two years in Cambridge, Massachusetts at MIT. However, this year I am in the other Cambridge (the OC for short :) ) in the UK. Along with about 40 other MIT students, I am studying abroad at Cambridge University as part of the Cambridge-MIT Exchange. I was disappointed to see no coverage of study abroad at MIT in the blogs, so I asked if I could write about my experiences here as a guest author.

First off, some perks of life at the other Cambridge:

Unlike the American school year which runs from September to May with a summer break, the Cambridge school year consists of 3 terms of 8 weeks each. This translates as less time spent in class. And in between terms, we get 6 weeks off, which is pretty amazing for traveling. I was recently in Istanbul, somewhere I never thought I’d end up, especially while all my friends at MIT were preparing for finals (sorry, I had to rub it in).

Also, that whole stereotype of British people drinking tea all the time is kind of true. At 11 am everyday, my department breaks for tea. Everything in the building stops and everyone from the Fellows, to the department librarian, to us lowly undergrads congregate. I’m thinking of starting a campaign to bring this to MIT, but I doubt it would catch on. The only thing I’ve seen MIT professors and students alike stop for is the World Cup.

And finally, Cambridge is strangely full of Harry Potter moments. We have (wizard) robes that we are required to wear pretty often to formal dinners and other things. And a lot of the dining halls look very Harry Potter Great Hall-esque. I’ll try and dig up some pictures soon.

On an unrelated note, I was quite disappointed to learn that JK Rowling did not come up with OWLs and NEWTs all on her own. They are actually based exactly on the British education system. Students take GCSEs (OWLs) when they are 16 and A-Levels (NEWTs) when they are 18…

The things I miss most about the US after my family and friends are food items like pizza, bagels, and ice cream in winter. And I spent way too much time in American supermarkets while I was home in December.

The Cambridge term officially began last Thursday (the 18th), and coverage of life abroad will continue soon!

18 responses to “Some Perks Of Life At The ‘Other’ Cambridge”

  1. hey, thats pretty cool of you to write about the study abroad programm. i´m from germany and before i applied to mit i strongly considered studying in britain. so, how does cambridge compare to mit? i mean, you think its better or not? and what i really wanne know is: does it really rain so often in england??

    oh, and btw, don´t believe in any of those “german stereotypes”, they´re all wrong!!! they´re all about BAVARIA :D (and they usually don´t even apply to them-at least not to all of them all the time ^^) have a tripp to germany once its nice here :D

    enjoy your time at cambridge :D

    btw, first post raspberry

  2. turnef says:

    You traveled to Istanbul! Really cool! I am kind of from Istanbul smile Did you like it here? smile

  3. Daniel says:

    I am enthralled with this whole study-abroad thing. I’m really glad you got to write a guest entry! I’ve had the opportunity to do a bit of travel myself, and I find everyone’s different culture so fascinating. Even more entertaining sometimes are the stereotypes other cultures have for Americans. I’ve met people who thought I was a Nazi!!

  4. deffered says:

    thanks for posting about this program- it’s a major reason i applied to mit.

    do you know anything about the physics dept?

  5. Melis says:

    Hi Mirat! Welcome to the blogging community =) It seems like you’re having a great time in Cambridge. Good luck with the new term!

  6. Zaira '11 says:

    Hello Mirat,

    Thank you so much for posting this. The Cambridge-MIT Institute is one of the aspects I love the most about MIT. I have so many questions for you (well, they are actually my mother’s questions who thinks studying in “the OC” is my crazy idea):

    -Do you have to pay for studying in England, or does the MIT tuition pay for this?

    -Why study abroad if you can stay at MIT and get the best education in the worl? NOTE: This is my mother’s question.

    -Is it difficult to adapt to the new culture?

    -Is living in Cambridge, England more expensive than living in the Boston area?

    Thank you so much. I would really appreciate some info on these questions so that I can convince my parents.

    Oh, and I love to hear about these HP facts. Thanks!

  7. Alexander says:

    To Josh (“Can you participate in the program regardless of your major?”):

    No. See for the MIT departments and for the Cambridge departments that participate.

  8. Meara says:

    Cool! I totally want to go study in Cambridge! (I have to get in first, but let’s not think about that.) I’d love to hear more about your classes (do they teach things differently in Britain) and everything that’s different about studying in Britain versus studying in the US.

    I think I want some tea now.

    Thanks for blogging!

  9. Josh V says:

    Hey Mirat,

    Thank you so much for posting! I have been wondering about the Cambridge-MIT Exchange for a while. I am really interested in it and hope to do it if I get into MIT. It was explained briefly when someone asked about it during my visit to MIT, but with you posting on it, I feel like I will get a much better sense of what it is actually like (coming from someone currently there).

    A few questions:

    Can you participate in the program regardless of your major?

    Is applying to the program competitive/Do many students consider this program (or studying abroad in general at MIT)?

  10. Melissa '11 says:

    Thank you for that post, Mirat! I’ve always wanted to study abroad – either to England, Ireland, or Scotland – and I’m very excited to (someday) participate in the MIT-Cambridge exchange!

    And Harry Potter is AMAZING. I can’t wait until Deathly Hallows comes out =)

  11. Monika says:

    No one particular: Would be nice to hear from you- I am German too.
    Well- its really a reason to come to MIT- and if you’re rejected- you can try to apply to the OC wink

    and- many people say British food is worst in the world….

  12. Solomon says:

    Sarab lets not talk about eh what you said. Lets forget it okay. Studying in Cambridge would be fabulous. I am looking forward to it when I coming to MIT.

  13. sina sabeti says:

    hi dear Mirat Shah
    Thank you so much for posting this,
    i have some questions if you answer them, i will be glad,
    i live in iran and i am studing in tehran university,
    and one of my goal is studing in MIT(i`m about 19 years)
    how i can join MIT?

  14. Sarab says:

    Nice Post. Enjoy the Tea. Hope you haven’t got hit by Racism!

  15. Alexander says:

    It’s a great idea to have someone comment on the MIT-Cambridge exchange program. To answer Zaira’s question (“Why study abroad if you can stay at MIT and get the best education in the worl?”): first of all, Cambridge isn’t all that bad, either wink. Much more importantly, however, I personally believe and am convinced that it is absolutely vital to look beyond your horizon and get in touch with people in different environments and with different cultural backgrounds. It broadens your mind, and I am sure that things like the MIT-Cambridge exchange are highly satisfying for both parts.

  16. Reg says:

    Thanks for posting this!!! I love both univerisites, and it’s great to see a blog entry on it, guest or not guest!

    and in answer to Zaira’s question, I guess both universities/colleges give the ‘best education in the world’! or else cambridge wouldn’t have that insane A level offer for their places! AAA is insane!

  17. Karen says:

    I totally know what you mean about the food – I’ve been in Taiwan as an exchange student for five months (and I still have five to go) and I think I miss American (and Mexican!) food more than I miss my family….

  18. Sophia says:

    Oh, did you know that Harry Potter was actually filmed in the sister of Cambridge—Oxford? And people think they look a lot like each other.
    I decided to apply for the exchanged; however, I still don’t know if that exchange year will be in Cambridge or in MIT. This year I applied for both, and I’ve already received the offer from Cambridge. As Chinese students can only apply for the regular action,I have to wait till March or April to hear from MIT. Oh, I love both of them! I hope the exchange program might be the best solution.