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Murray Edwards Turns 60!

I'd like to tell you a little about where I'm studying today.

So I'm in my fourth year at the University of Cambridge. It's renowned worldwide for its beautiful colleges, dominated by gorgeous medieval courts, quads with 'Keep Off The Grass' signs, stony spires and picturesque bridges over the River Cam.

But let's just get one thing straight. I am not at one of these so-called 'beautiful colleges'.

My college, Murray Edwards (formerly New Hall) was founded in 1954 on the Backs, on Silver Street, moving site to northern Cambridge in the 60s. Its architecture is very of its time; it sits proudly on Castle Hill in all its Brutalist, concrete-loving glory. There are no elaborate finials or elegant stone arches to be found here.

Murray Edwards is also notorious for one other thing: it's not a mixed sex college. It's girls only, and this has led its students gaining the dual, paradoxical reputation of either being 'too prudish' to apply to a mixed college, or alternatively, a group of sex-starved females who pounce on the opposite sex the minute they're liberated from their oestrogen-laced surroundings, earning the college the nickname 'Hurry Bedwards'. Yep. You can imagine the sort of revved-up teenage males who come up with this kind of stuff.

I'll admit that all this has led to a fair bit of angst on my part in the past, especially on entering the university and being made to not feel 'good enough' for Cambridge. Other students and porters at the more well-known colleges can be, and indeed have been, very insulting about my college to my face, often coming close to what might be termed as bullying. See this Tab article for an example of the 'humorous' elitism students at the modern colleges face on a regular basis. The sad thing is, we're expected to laugh it off or grow a thick skin when faced with college-related jibes, but the fact that my emotional response to these comes disturbingly close to how I feel when confronted with racist or sexist 'jokes' tells me that this is something that the University needs to address.

Despite all this, I'd like to make it clear that I am very fond of my college, supposed shortcomings or not. My tutors and directors of studies there have always been extremely supportive to me, while the atmosphere is really friendly and tightly-knit, probably closer to a non-Oxbridge hall of residence. Last week was its 60th birthday, which happily coincided with International Women's Day. To celebrate, we were treated to a host of talks from intimidatingly successful alums, followed by formal. Formal is a Cambridge tradition in which you dress up, don gowns (which I eschewed for this particular formal in favour of a leather jacket out of laziness rather than rebellion) and sit down for a three-course silver service meal.

Upon entering the Dome, where we have our regular meals and formals, we were greeted with the soft peals of an Indonesian gamelan orchestra.

We waited patiently for grace, then had our starter - tuna wrapped in tempura-fried nori, with a cucumber and rocket salad.

I was sitting opposite Sana, my housemate and fellow Murray Edwards undergrad.

We were seated next to some grads and alumnae and got chatting about everything from opera to weddings. Then came the main - a tasty mutton curry with rice, and, slightly inexplicably, a giant slab of bread.

It was my first time dressing up nicely for quite a while, as I've been living pretty permanently in a uniform of jeans, t-shirts and pullovers all term! Perhaps that's what being a finalist does to you... My dress is from Topshop and my necklace is from Alex Monroe

I was in a giant rush during dessert because it was time to catch a train back to London, so I didn't manage to get snaps of that course (a beautifully creamy maracuja passion fruit tart with sorbet) but rest assured I gobbled it right down. In record time, too - probably about five seconds!

Thank you, Murray Edwards, for an excellent evening of food and thought-provoking discussion! I'm very proud to be a part of this college.

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