A school teacher reflects on her return to being a student

MPhil student, Chloe Lambdon, reflects on her move from secondary school teaching to postgraduate study.

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Chloe Lambdon is an MPhil student in English Studies, with a particular interest in contemporary literature and the sociology of texts. After working as an English teacher in a Cambridgeshire secondary school, Chloe witnessed some of the barriers students face in accessing higher education; she keen to use her student ambassador role to help demystify Cambridge to prospective students. 

Can you briefly summarise your route to Cambridge? Did you always want to do postgraduate study at Cambridge? 

I graduated from the University of Warwick in 2020 straight into the pandemic. At the time, I never thought I would study for a master’s despite feeling like I still had so much more to read and say about my area of literature. Cost and the uncertainty of Covid felt like huge barriers.

I moved to Cambridge to start teacher training, completing my PGCE at the University of East Anglia, and then worked as an English teacher in a local secondary school for two years. My desire to do a master’s only grew stronger, but I was not in a position to move cities, so Cambridge was the natural choice. I am thoroughly enjoying myself so far and I am so happy I made the decision to apply!

Why did you want to study English studies, and what area of the subject particularly interests you? 

My undergraduate degree is in English Literature, so I wanted to continue some of the work I had already done and push it further. I am interested in contemporary literature, and I focus primarily on the sociology of texts. My dissertation focuses on the International Booker Prize, which is a prize for translated fiction in English. I find the literary prize industry fascinating, and I want to unpick some of the forces of influence behind it and how this impacts the production of literature on a global scale. 

The course at Cambridge is so varied and flexible; you can tailor it exactly to your research interests. Every English Studies MPhil student is doing something different, and it leads to great conversations with course mates where I always learn something new and come away with something else to add to my reading list.

You talk about having worked as an early career teacher. What did you learn through that experience?

I learnt a huge amount when I was teaching, from time management and being authoritative to explaining complicated topics in simple ways, the list goes on!

Teaching has shaped who I am as a person and has helped me both socially and academically. I am more confident now than I was as an undergraduate, and this has helped me to get stuck into academic life. 

As an undergraduate, I would avoid tutor office hours at all costs! But this year I have gained so much from meeting with, and discussing my ideas with, my tutors. My teaching experience has also helped me manage the workload involved in my MPhil. I try to keep my working hours similar to a 9-5 job, meaning I still have enough time to socialise, get enough sleep, and keep up with general life admin. 

Did you pick ҹѰ initially, and if so, why? 

I did not pick ҹѰ. In fact, I gave very little thought to college choice. I thought it wouldn’t matter much since I already lived in Cambridge and would not be living in College. I definitely didn’t realise how important being in a Mature College would be for me. 

I am very grateful that I was allocated ҹѰ as my College. The fact it is a Mature College has meant that everyone I have met is at a similar life stage to me and has similar interests, and it has made it so much easier to join societies and go to social events. 

How do you find studying at Cambridge as someone local to Cambridge who lives outside College? 

I was initially a bit worried that living off-site would limit my experience of College life, but this has not been a problem in the slightest. 

There are so many events at ҹѰ, from film nights to comedy shows to BOPs (Big Organised Parties), where it is easy to meet people. I have also found that I have eaten in the dining hall more often than I ever thought I would. It is such a convenient place to meet with friends and share a meal in between study sessions or before a night in the clubroom. Despite not living in College, ҹѰ feels like home. 

What societies or extra-curricular opportunities are you hoping to pursue whilst you are here?

One of the best decisions I made when I arrived was joining the ҹѰ Boat Club and learning to row. Before arriving, I had never been a part of a sports team and I had never stepped foot in a boat. 

In just 8 weeks, I learnt to row and took part in four different races - it was so much fun! Rowing has been a great way to keep fit and make friends, and I can’t imagine my first term here without it. I am travelling to Portugal with the Boat Club for a training camp in January, and I hope to continue rowing until I graduate. 

What tips would you give to prospective students?

My advice to any prospective students is if you have had a few years out of university, or if you are coming to university later in life, and you are questioning whether you will fit in or adjust to university life - don’t worry! It doesn’t take long to feel at home, especially in a College like ҹѰ. 

I know you are passionate about outreach and widening participation. Why is this work important to you? 

Outreach and widening participation are important to me because without outreach programmes and bursaries, I probably wouldn’t have made it to university. In my teaching career, I also saw first-hand some of the barriers students face in accessing higher education and I want to contribute in any way possible to helping more people to get to university. 

My hope is that I can help demystify Cambridge for prospective students and signpost them to all the opportunities and support available to them. 

What are you most looking forward regarding the remainder of your MPhil studies? 

I am most looking forward to writing my dissertation. I have been reading and thinking about my topic since I applied last year so the opportunity to finally form my ideas into an extended project under the supervision of an expert in the field is really exciting.

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This article is part of the 2023/4 Postgraduate Student Profile Series:

You can learn more about the funding available at ҹѰ and how to apply to study for a postgraduate course at Cambridge University as a ҹѰ student on our website. 

You can also watch our to find out more about the social and academic environment at ҹѰ.