Sidney is a small College, but a really social and friendly community. At Sidney, you’ll get to know people from a vast number of subjects both in your year and across College. One of my favourite things about my first year at Sidney was how much I was able to learn about other subject areas because of the fantastic mix of friends I made. It’s really easy to get to know people in freshers’ week, with the array of activities, and also living together in one of a few areas of College. Sidney is also one of the best Colleges in terms of location. During your first year, lectures and supervisions shouldn’t be more than a 15 minute walk away, or a 5-10 minute cycle, and you’ll reap the benefits of living across the road from Sainsbury’s - a true Cambridge luxury!
So, what is Land Economy? It’s a question which you’ll inevitably have been asked a lot already and it’s a question you’ll probably spend the rest of your life trying to answer. Basically, it’s a quirky combination of Law, Economics and the environment. In your first year, you’ll do four papers: Paper 1 (Macro and Micro Economics), Paper 2 (Administrative and Constitutional Law), Paper 3 (Quantitative and Legal methods) and Paper 4 (Land Economy, Development and Sustainability). Some aspects of these papers are shared with first year lawyers and economists and so you’ll be able to talk to them about your work. Most first years find Paper 2 the hardest (I certainly did) but don’t let it stress you out if it takes you a little while to start to properly understand it. My advice would be to try your best to keep up with the legal terminology and speak to your friends on the course about how they’re getting on- you’ll likely find that you’re all in the same boat! There’s also no need to worry if you don’t have a background in any of the specific areas before coming to Cambridge. First year is all about getting you settled into the Cambridge way of learning and getting everyone on the same level because of the range of different subject backgrounds that Land Economy attracts.
As well as being an unusual combination of subjects, Land Economy at Cambridge is also a bit different in that it’s a very small department. Each year there are only around 60 new Land Economy undergraduates whereas some courses, like Natural Sciences, can enrol hundreds of new students each year. Being part of such a small department means that it is so easy to get to know everyone else on your course, especially as we all take the same modules in first year, and so the department is usually a very sociable and tight-knit group. You’ll have supervisions with people from different Colleges too, which is a great way to get to know a few others in your year really well. Your Director of Studies (or ‘DoS’) will let you know who your supervisors are, as well as overseeing your academic progress through the year. You can ask them any queries you might have, or let them know any concerns or problems you might be having academically. There’s also your tutor and the whole Sidney pastoral team if you need advice or support with anything else at all.
The course is taught through lectures and supervisions. As humanities students we generally don’t have many contact hours (hours being taught/in lectures), so we’re sort of left to our own devices. Typically, during a week you’ll have 8 hours of lectures (a two-hour block for each paper) and then 2 supervisions a week. Supervisions are a unique Oxbridge experience, in the sense that they are classes of 3 or 4 with a lecturer or specialist on each paper goes through the essay or problem sheet you’ve been set that week. They’re an hour long, and can be quite intense, but are a really rewarding experience and a fantastic way of being taught. Don’t worry if you feel a bit out of your depth in your first few supervisions though; you’ll get used to them very quickly, and your supervisors will know that you’ve never done anything quite like this before. Although there are very few contact hours, you’ll have plenty of work to do in preparation for the supervisions! I won’t sugar coat it, supervision work isn’t easy. Some of the papers that you read in order to write the essays are long and complex but it does get easier over time. In your first year you’ll work hard but you’ll adapt to it very quickly and (despite some myths) you’ll be left with more than enough time to enjoy yourself!
One of the most amazing things about your time at university is that there are so many extra-curricular activities, with teams and societies. Whatever your hobbies or interests, there's a good chance that there will be a university society for it that you can sign up to. Be sure to keep an eye out for the university fresher’s fair and the College fresher’s fair to see the remarkable range of societies and teams on offer and sign up to a few. It’s a great time to try something new! Personally, university and College sport is something I try to do as much of as I can, and I find that College sport especially is a great way to keep fit and engage in a bit of friendly competition with other Colleges. There’s no need to fill every minute though; it’s important to have some downtime, and lots of good ways to do so around college, from just chilling with friends in your rooms to going to formal hall (a three course meal you can book on to which happens several times a week). There’s also the Sidney JCR and bar which have a variety of games, and activities on from time to time.