Qasim is on our four-year Classics course for those who come to Cambridge witout an A-Level in Greek or Latin.
Usually my mornings are taken up with going to the Faculty, whether that be for lectures or language classes. I tend to come back to college for lunch, and end up sitting and chatting with friends for an hour or so before filling my afternoon with supervisions and sport. After dinner either in hall or cooking with friends, I work in the library most evenings. I’ve found my schedule changes every year, fitting to new sports and lecture schedules, new supervisors, and new friends. I like to plan my time to make the most of my days, but sometimes it’s fun just to be spontaneous and see where the day takes you.
What’s the teaching like?
Teaching is split between the faculty and the college, there are lecture course covering History, Philosophy, Art & Archaeology, Linguistics and Literature, and you can become more selective about what you choose to go to as the years go by. The lecture courses tend to correlate with the examinations at the end of the year, and lecturers often suggest supervision essay titles to colleges. However, depending on your supervisors and your own interests, the essays you write weekly for college supervisions may have wider or more specific foci. I really enjoy the opportunity to engage with the bits of a text or historical period that really interest me, and develop my own ideas about them.
Because the Cambridge Classics course is very language focused, there are lots of language classes in the first couple of years. Studying the 4-year course, I did intensive Latin in my first year and Intensive Greek in my second year, both having several language classes a week, in mixed groups of students from all over the university. The language work is hard, but rewarding, and the regular and constant support is really helpful in ensuring you can develop your skills coherently. Going into my fourth year, I no longer have any language classes, but I’ll still be looking closely at the original texts in the papers I’m doing.
What do you do with your free time?
I’ve found the busier I make myself, the more productive I become, so consequently I try to fill my time with lots of different things. I play a lot of sport on a competitive college level with mixed netball, badminton, and mixed lacrosse, which I also play for the university. Sometimes I can’t do everything I want to in one week, or even one term, but it’s really easy to chop and change your commitments, and start doing something one term, and then pick something else up the next time. I’ve also been a part of the Ancient Literature Society, a university-wide, weekly book club that meets up to discuss ancient literature in translation over tea and biscuits. I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to chat about a wide variety of cultures and time periods outside of my degree studies, and made some fantastic friends too. I am part of the Islamic Society, which apart from providing a regular venue for prayers, also puts on fantastic talks and social events for the Muslim community in Cambridge.
What do you like most about studying Classics?
The breadth of my degree is what first drew me to it; the opportunity to continue to explore history and literature and languages all together. Learning ancient languages has always felt a little bit magical for me, like you’re accessing some arcane wisdom, and breaking a code at the same time. Being able to study a culture in its entirety, to track its changes, to read its language, to explore its philosophy, just opens up a whole world of exploration of big ideas about human history and identity, whilst also allowing you to really get to grips with the nitty-gritty textual analysis and specific ideas. That I can range around such a large and varied discipline at will is what I enjoy most about studying Classics.