It’s that time of year again. A time not unique to Cambridge, but one which always has an extreme impact on the city as a whole. The Academic year has begun and with it the students have returned. It is a time which we at the Varsity Hotel Cambridge always look forward to for the energy it can give to the city.
A Time of Change
Summer has faded into autumn which means we are once again in a time of change. Some of these changes are good and welcome. Others we grudgingly accept while looking for a silver lining. Some are natural, like the falling of the leaves. Others man-made.
There is always much beauty to be seen in nature this time of year. Although it is a strangely melancholy beauty. The leaves on the trees turn wonderous hues of red and gold. Especially striking when hit by the rays of the autumn sun. Yet unlike in the spring it is not so much the beauty of rebirth and renewal as it is the beauty of decay.
Yet there is an event in Cambridge that bucks this trend. That is an act of renewal rather than decline. The beginning of the Academic year, and with it the return of the students. And with them come all their promise and dreams of the future. All the vital energy of youth. And after the events of the past few years, this time will be even more jarring than usual.
A City Taken Over
You may ask what the big deal is – students arrive at universities all across the country at this time of year. True. But there are many quirks of Cambridge that make this event almost staggering in its impact. One week the streets are full of tourists. The next week they are quiet. And the week after they are positively swarming with students. Why is that?
First, let’s talk numbers. Last year’s census put Cambridge’s population around 145,000 people. During term time there are over 20,000 students in residence in the city. That’s roughly one person in every eight. They weren’t there yesterday. Now they are.
But the impact is much greater than numbers alone might suggest. The total population of Cambridge is, as you might expect, spread across the city. While the student population is concentrated in certain areas, most of which just happen to be in the historic centre of this medieval market town. The streets are already narrow and really not suited for cars. So when you start adding in hordes of students spilling off the pavement…chaos ensues.
The effect is further exaggerated by the fact that so many students are freshers. New to the city, don’t know where anything is yet. And because they haven’t yet had the chance to make new friends and split up into smaller groups, they tend to move around in large numbers. Resulting in a sea of young adults where previously there were quiet streets.
It’s quite a sight to see, and yet another man-made marvel of Cambridge. And can easily be seen from the Varsity Hotel Cambridge.