This is the BanglaSoc FAQ! These are some of the frequently asked questions students who are applying to Cambridge or who have offers ask us. Below, you’ll find the answers to some of the questions you may have!
For even more information about life at Cambridge and the application process, check out the TV Interviews we did!
This will vary from subject to subject and totally depends on you as an applicant. A good personal statement looks at your enjoyment of and engagement with the subject(s) you’re applying for, so if you think that your heritage is a big part of that, you should absolutely talk about it in your personal statement and/or interview! Who knows, it might be a topic you know more about than your interviewers, so you can teach them something too!
For more information about interview preparation, check out the undergraduate interview help from Cambridge University.
The short answer is no. When you apply to the university, the academics use a very holistic process to look at you as a student. They consider your personal statement, interview, past and predicted grades etc., and part of this will include looking at your background (e.g. higher education rates at your school, and how you are performing in comparison to your peers) so they can see the context in which you achieve your grades. However, even this isn’t very focused on your ethnicity, and interviewers are more interested in finding out if you are passionate about the subject you’re applying for and have the potential to do really well as a Cambridge student.
There are lots of free access initiatives to help your application to Cambridge. Keep an eye out for upcoming BanglaSoc access events, and also a webinar project run by the university for Year 12 Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Arab (BPA) students.
Cambridge University hosts lots of free subject-specific masterclasses, and participates in the nationwide Sutton Trust Summer Schools scheme.
You can also look at aim, a brand new access scheme for BAME students, or check out Insideuni for more BME specific help and support for things such as your application and grants. Also, feel free to contact our BanglaSoc Access Officer.
The beauty of Cambridge is that it attracts people from around the world and from all kinds of backgrounds, and so the ‘diversity’ of a college varies from year to year. It’s more important when choosing a college to consider what your life will be like there, both in terms of the academic and the domestic side of things. For example, if you have certain religious dietary requirements (e.g. halal food) that are important to you, only some colleges will be able to offer this.
Be sure to check out the list of colleges before applying, and, if you can, visit the colleges you like in person to see which college suits you best.
Have you ever suffered from imposter syndrome or feeling like you don't fit in, especially if you're a BAME student?
Yes! Almost everyone feels imposter syndrome at some point in their time at Cambridge, it is totally normal! Cambridge is one of the best universities in the world, it is easy to think that you don’t belong here and don’t fit in, especially when you have additional barriers like your ethnicity or socio-economic background, but everyone is in the same boat. After a while you start to understand that you were accepted on your own merit, and the imposter syndrome fades away and Cambridge feels a lot more like home.
Everyone that is at Cambridge University is there due to their own intelligence. Every person you meet will have had to go through the same interview process as you. Just because you come from a different background than other students, it doesn’t make your place at Cambridge worth any less!
I have spent a lot of my life surrounded by other BAME people. How is it living and working in this new environment?
Cambridge is a really welcoming place to people from all kinds of backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities; the number of BAME students at the university is on the rise, but it may still be the case that you are one of the only people of colour in a room, in both academic and social situations. Friendships can be formed in many ways, at a university society, having a shared enthusiasm for your subject, or even having the same favourite book or TV show!
The university cultural societies host lots of events throughout the year, which means that you will often find yourself in a room full of people who look like, and have similar experiences to, you!
Cambridge welcomes people of all faiths; there are a few churches in the town centre, but other places of worship (e.g. mosque, gurdwara, synagogue) tend to be further out. However there are loads of religious societies, which provide a space and host events for everyone, and will also accommodate many religious needs you might have e.g. the Islamic Society hosts Jummah prayers every week during term in the town centre.
What is Cambridge doing actively right now to educate their students about things such as microaggressions and racism?
“The Cambridge BME Campaign have been implementing anti-racism training for the past few years, making sure freshers are equipped with the knowledge and skills to spot and address racism, we have been lobbying the uni for unconscious bias and anti racism training with student facing staff.” ~ The BME Campaign
As well as the new BME Rep on the Students’ Union, every college JCR (student committee) has a BME Officer to provide support and a safe space for BME students on a collegiate level.
Yes, we welcome everyone, especially people from other backgrounds! Our events are open to all students, whether you want to hang out with people from a Bengali background, or you want to learn more about the rich culture Bangladesh has to offer, please come along to our events! All of our events have a great mix of people from different backgrounds and cultures, the more the merrier!
We often run events together with other societies: we’ve hosted Garden Parties with the Cambridge University Pakistani Society, and we’ve taken part in the Cambridge International Food Festival, and we plan to collaborate with other societies on future events!
Does Cambridge host events from different cultures (e.g Lunar New Year, Hindu New Year, Ramadan, etc)? What other BME specific societies are there?
Cambridge societies host loads of events from different cultures, from Iftari every night during Ramadan with ISoc, Holi with HinduSoc, to Chinese new year with ABACUS! There’s a huge range of cultural and religious societies, check out aim for a list of cultural, religious and international societies, or check out the societies directory for the full list of societies at Cambridge University.
Be yourself, but be open to meeting new people and trying new things. You probably won’t have a group of close friends by the end of Freshers’ Week, but this is totally normal, as these relationships take time to develop. You will definitely find people you have things in common with, and you don’t have to change who you are to make friends.
You definitely won’t be the only one not drinking and clubbing during Freshers’ Week, lots of people don’t do these things for religious reasons or simply because they don’t enjoy it! In recent years, lots of college JCRs (student committees) have planned events that are not centered around drinking culture, so there will definitely be something for you to do.
As well as your college Freshers’ events, university societies will host welcome events called Squashes (the name confuses a lot of people), which are a great way to meet people you share interests with and make friends, and they will host events like these throughout the year.
Some colleges offer halal food in their canteen and even at formals. To find out more about this, it is best to email the college directly and ask them.
Outside of college, Mill Road (near the station, it’s not in the town centre) has many halal restaurants and butchers. There are also a few restaurants that serve halal meat (usually only chicken) in the town centre, you just have to Google or ask when you’re there.