Associated with names such as Francis Bacon, Sir Issac Newton, James Maxwell, Charles Darwin, Watson and Crick, in Cambridge one has every reason to be serious, yet Cambridge students decidedly do not take themselves too seriously. The photo is the front page of Cambridge student newspaper May 2009 issue, which I took from the tourist center in Cambridge University. The year 2009 happens to be the 800th anniversary of this ancient institute, and the front page depicts this 800th graduating class in the most disarrayed form.
The student newspaper is merely one illustration of the light-hearted spirit of Cambridge. Another amusing story I learned is about the champion of the Cambridge pub crawl. The latest winner drank 14 pints in 17 minutes, and was presented a green scarf after his feat, “presumably to match the color of his face”. The university administration certainly does not like its students spending all their time entertaining themselves. And that’s why the Cambridge railway station is built so far away from the university town. The campus police, as I was told, had the authority to arrest any student in possession of a ticket to London on the platform when the station was first built. Another anecdote has to do with the first woman college Girton College. When it was first opened in 1870s, it was located 30 miles from Cambridge, with the intention to keep its female students from “male distractions”.
The name Cambridge alone inspires awes and admiration, yet the campus is full of refreshing youthful spirits, sometimes defiant and mischievous. Despite its age, Cambridge is still a quintessential example of vibrant university town. Its success may just depend on this very defiant and mischievous spirit of youth, which is best captured by Rudyard Kipling in “Taking everything you like seriously, except yourselves. “