If there's a summer abroad you want to do, this is everything you're looking for. Past Review

By (philosophy/math, Brandeis University) for

IFSA: Cambridge - Pembroke & Kings Colleges Cambridge, Summer

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It was absolutely amazing. I already miss it and it's been less than 2 weeks since the program ended. It's so much fun and I learn so much about things I assume. In England, internet is NOT everywhere, there's not even internet in Starbucks, the only place with free wi-fi is McDonald's. Also there's a 1 GB bandwidth limit on internet usage, which means no downloading music, no 2-hous skype sessions. Also, services that I'm used to are not available there - no Netflix, no Pandora. But it has all the other things: accessibility (everything is very close to each other), their teas and scones, all the pretty grass, and all their pretty bridges on their tiny Cam "river". Academically, the Math class helped me decide to major in Math, and the Philosophy class made me decide that I probably don't want to major in philosophy.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The workload was very high. And it was very fast paced. Imagine regular semester courses condensed down to 8 weeks (Module 3 classes) or 4 weeks (module 1 and 2 classes). Module 1, 2 and 3 have the same contact hour, same course load, except module 1 and 2 are a lot faster and more intense. Imagine a mid-term after 2 weeks of class, then a final and a paper in another 2 weeks. In terms of grading, 70% is what they call "first class honours", which is about an A in America. On average student need to work hard to get a 60%, which is equivalent to a B and considered a very good grade. Of course, it depends on the class you're taking, some are harder than others. In terms of teaching, there are lectures and seminars. Every class consists of lectures and seminars: lecture is where the lecturer gives information and students take notes and seminars are discussion groups. Most classes for this program were relatively small, so it feels like a liberal arts education - and for the summer program, you can take classes in different subject areas too.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The administration is very helpful and friendly. And there are the PAs (Program Advisors), who are local students, most of very cool and very friendly. If you ask for help, they will help you. If they see you need help, they will ask if you need help. In terms of administration, there's no fault to find. Strengths of the program: everything you expect from a summer program. From staff, faculty, administration, to libraries (amazingly beautiful), architecture, accessibility of utilities and facilities (everything is VERY close together), and to the friends you'll meet in the program, everything's great. Also they have this thing called formal halls, where you dress up and attend a formal dinner in their main hall (which is very pretty), and there's dance afterwards. They also have BOPs (uniquely Cambridge parties), definitely worth the experience. Weakness: sometimes you need to adjust to the little quirks of England here and there. For example, the faucets will only have a really hot pipe and a really cold pipe and you can only get boiling water or freezing water; the streets are extremely narrow and people like to hang out on the streets outside of the pubs; there will be people ask you if you wanting go punting at least 8-10 times within 8 weeks; the summer in England is strangely cold, usually in the low 60s, and occasionally in the low 80s.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Personally, my housing was amazing. I lived right across from King's college (the central, central location in the town of Cambridge), and since I live on this little alley, it's really quiet at night too. I had a single with en-suite bathroom - my own bathroom. Someone comes in once a week to clean the room and change my towel. Laundry was a bit of a hassle because I had to walk into King's college to do it. But overall it was wonderful. Though I did hear about bad experiences of some other people, who had to go out of their dorm, walk across the college into another building, to take a shower.

* Food:

Dining hall food gets bad and boring after a while (app. 3-7 weeks depending on the person). But there are a lot of good restaurants in Cambridge because of all the tourists. They have really nice breakfast places (with all their teas and scones). "Auntie's Tea Shop" is my favorite breakfast place. "Agora at The Copper Kettle" is a really nice Turkish place. In terms Asian food, "HK fusion" I like a lot, "Seven Days" has the chef who used to cook for the Chinese ambassador there though personally I didn't like it, and "J restaurant" on Regent street, is my favorite.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

They hold "Plenary Lectures", where guest speakers are invited to speak in the Cambridge Union Society (their debate society). They are usually pretty interesting, we had the head of British Secret Intelligence until 2002 come speak (because he is now Provost of Pembroke College) and officials from the European Union come talk about the European economic crisis and future of the EU. There was a trip to Scotland, highly recommend it. Personally I really liked it. There were various trips that you can choose from. I went on a hiking trip in the Trossachs (some wild natural place in Scotland), and it was amazing. Plus Edinburgh has the cafe where Harry Potter was born.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Cambridge is pretty safe, but be sure to walk with your friends if you're coming back late from a party, pub or club. For the most part there's no robbing, no violence. But theft is worth being aware of. I know a friend who lost her laptop in the library in King's College.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students
  • Americans

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Those who don't mind also doing a considerable amount of studying, this is perfect. Those who don't want to do the studying, you can do it anyway, you're just missing out on another aspect.