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Helen Pittam

Helen Pittam on the Great Wall of China

Everywhere in Cambridge claims to be the friendly college, and the truth is wherever you go you’ll feel welcome. But if I were to apply again, I would definitely choose Churchill, and not just because it truly is the friendly college. While I'll admit that its distinctive appearance is not the college’s top selling point for everyone, Churchill is modern, dynamic and offers its own unique Cambridge experience.

Being slightly further out (by Cambridge standards that is; it's 15 minutes from the centre and I'm a walker; cyclists can get there in no time) actually works in Churchill’s favour. It means that you get immediate access to the countryside and don’t have to put up with tourists peering through your window. More importantly, Churchill has the largest grounds of any Cambridge college, meaning a free gym, tennis courts and fantastic sports fields onsite. As a forward looking college where gown-wearing at formal meals is not enforced, you can walk, run or even cartwheel on the grass. I've used the fields for football, BBQs, picnics and even revision in the summer. It’s a great antidote to the sometimes claustrophobic feel of other colleges. Another great advantage of Churchill's size is that it can offer accommodation throughout all three years of your time at Cambridge, which fosters a strong sense of community and means that after first year you're often closer to lectures and the city centre than some students in other colleges who have had to move out. At the same time, the small class sizes in AMES means you're guaranteed to make friends from other colleges and can dip into the traditional Cambridge lifestyle whenever you like.

This relaxed and friendly atmosphere is matched by Churchill’s academic strength. Not only does Churchill as a whole have an outstanding academic record – it consistently ranks in the top ten colleges for results – but it is also without a doubt one of the best colleges for AMES. At the end of the day, support does vary from college to college, especially for a subject as diverse as AMES, so the high-levels of help and feed-back at Churchill really do make it stand out.

With the excellent Dr Yuan as Director of Studies, Chinese is a particular strong point. Churchill regularly has the largest group of Chinese students each year, often having three when the average is one, which creates a great supportive community. The college also offers travel grants for going to China (which I've used four summers in a row) and a Chinese New Year feast, complete with lion dancing and a traditional Chinese orchestra.


Image: Helen Pittam on the Great Wall of China