When our cab finally reached Selwyn’s gate, I was practically convinced that someone was going to snap their fingers and I was going to wake up. Our professor met us there and we stashed our luggage to have a quick picnic in the gardens to recuperate. We had cheese, grapes, marble bread, and chicken flavoured crisps.
When we finally got our room keys, I was relieved I didn’t have to lug my bags up any stairs as mine was on the ground floor (different from the first floor). There’s no air conditioning, but I opened my windows and sat still for a minute and cooled down without much trouble. Looking back, this was probably one of two days in the entire month that I felt too warm. And even on those days I don’t think it got above 75°F (or 23°C).
I went to take a shower before dinner because I got sweaty waiting in the porter’s lodge line and it was very strange having to trek to the bathroom. This is probably common sense to anyone who was a residential student in college, but as a commuter I fervently wished I had thought to bring some shower flip flops and a robe because I hate getting dressed in a steamy bathroom.
The only time I genuinely got frustrated with dorm living was one instance when I had to try for a free W.C. four times on two different floors.
Because we had access to the gyp, Emeline, Hannah, Becca, and I all went in on sandwich and laundry supplies, which was so much cheaper than in the States by the way. I know that the prices seemed lower because the GBP is so strong, but it was also at least partially due to the food being fresher and more locally sourced. That might sound like an oxymoron because in the States fresh markets are expensive, but in the U.K. that sort of thing is regulation standard. Supply and demand, etc., etc.
Occasionally though, we’d either run out of supplies or were in dire need of a warm pick-me-up and would head to The Buttery for lunch in between classes. There would always be a rack of hot subs. Usually very simple combinations–my favourite was a brie and “bacon” sandwich on a warm baguette. Let’s be honest though, the bacon was ham.
Sometimes I stopped in just for a coffee to keep me awake during the daily plenary lectures (though our professor allowed us to only attend 4 and review 3 a week). I tried to get a hazelnut latte, but it was nowhere near as good as at Café Rouge so I stuck to Americanos after that.
I think that the money culture is slightly different in the U.K. (and possibly more generally abroad) because using cash currency was much more common. Either that or I was always surrounded by fellow internationals who had visited the money exchange in Marks & Spencer. In any case, I felt a small victory because I was finally able to give exact change in The Buttery lunch rush.
The dining hall was our primary eatery, of course, as daily breakfast and dinner were included with our tuition. Of course, they also sold convenience items like soda and plasters (band-aids), toothpaste, etc. Breakfast was buffet-style and dinner was served nightly, except Sundays when it was self-serve. Lunch was optional and for a fee, so we either packed a lunch or went to The Buttery.
I really got in the habit of having a full breakfast spread, especially since I was always on the move, burning the candle at both ends, and lunch was usually sparse. Only once, when I had slept in an extra 20 minutes the morning after our Dublin trip, did I only grab a quick piece of toast and coffee.
Dinner was a hearty three-courses (lots of potatoes), which I thought would be a bit much, but I always ended up having a huge appetite by evening. One of my professors told me that Selwyn had one of the top-ranked chefs at the University of Cambridge. I don’t think we ever ate the same thing twice (granted, we spent at least 8 nights dining out).
I kept a very devoted food diary:
Appetizers: chilled green soup, prawn cocktail, Mediterranean salad (cucumbers, tomato, basil, olives, & feta), grilled chicken salad, tomato soup, smoked salmon.
Main courses: roast chicken with gravy, roast beef, chicken parmesan, pasta, pork with tomato & basil, pesto salmon, lamb, salmon with lemon butter, Indian cuisine, wellington chicken.
Side dishes: stuffing, potatoes, roasted carrots, Yorkshire pudding (savory pastry bread bowl with gravy), mixed greens (broccoli, zucchini, bell pepper, peas, & green beans), leeks, peas, scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes with chives, potato salad.
Desserts: lemon meringue pie, a lemon square-type tart with raspberry drizzle, crème puffs with chocolate drizzle, cheesecake with raspberry sauce, crème brulée with raspberry sauce (a chocolate mouse pyramid with cocoa on the outside, hazelnut on the inside), mint bombe (ice cream with a chocolate shell), raspberry mouse.
And, of course, coffee to help digest. I really became quite spoiled.
Selwyn did grant us what we came to call an “apology voucher” for £20 to use at the dining hall or campus pub. I used it to buy some bottled water and crisps for lunches. Twice, I grabbed a strawberry-lime Rekorderlig for take-away at the pub. The £20 stretched quite far because they didn’t overcharge like Brenau’s tea room.
For the closing dinner, there is a white linen service with candles and complimentary wine. It’s a black tie event so I got gussied up which I don’t usually do so it was nice that everyone else did too. This is also where you get your attendance certificate (that I’m planning to frame) and a few brief speeches are made. It’s a nice farewell, but of course the term I dinner was just a transition for our group.
One school-hosted event that we participated in was the Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) in the Uni Centre. There was a live band and it was so, so crowded. Hannah and I did a couple’s dance down the line and then a group dance (“Dosie Do”). Think Jane Austen-esque.
It was bittersweet handing over my keys when we checked out at the porter’s lodge on the last morning. We all waited in the Selwyn pub with our luggage until the cab came to take us to the airport. Refreshments (water & shortbread) were provided.
The best part about it though was that the beauty of the campus never became ‘background noise.’ I don’t know if it was intensified because I was really paying attention, but the air smelled cleaner, the flowers seemed to bloom brighter, and I just felt lighter.