Like an indelible pen across a page, St Edmund’s has made such a mark on my life. When I arrived at St Edmund’s for Michaelmas term in 2000, I felt unsteady, unsure as to what lied ahead. I was coming to Eddies to study medicine, but rather than the wide-eyed excitement one might expect, I felt rather wobbly and very introspective. Knowing no one – and not realizing that the college even served breakfast – I actually spent my first morning in Cambridge eating breakfast alone at Café Rouge, staring out onto the street. I remember it being rainy.
When I left Cambridge nearly six years later, having completed my medical degree and house officership at Addenbrookes Hospital, I had little resemblance to the person who arrived those years earlier. I was stronger, but with a lightness inside that allowed be to focus more clearly on moving forward. Leaving Cambridge on the train to London for the last time, brought with me memories that made me smile, even laugh out loud, and those memories still remain strong today. For me, the story of that transformative process is rooted in St Edmund’s itself, and more specifically, the supportive and accepting environment it nurtured.
St Edmund’s was a magical place for me, providing an environment seemed to offer exactly what was needed, when it was needed. It was a place where the college officers and fellows knew all the students by name, and really cared about us as individuals. Where the master, Sir Brian Heap, would join us at lunch, and truly be interested in what was happening in our lives. Where my tutor had the insight and consideration to offer the support I needed, prior to me even realizing that was what I needed.
It was a place that student came from all over the world, with different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences, but yet somehow, everyone seemed to get along – were friends. One never needed to coordinate who to sit with at meal time, which in retrospect made what would have been the rather mundane routine of eating in the dining hall, instead, a rather pleasant daily break.
I remember the simple everyday things which really were what made Eddies so special; Hearing the bell ring twice a day calling us downstairs for a tea trolley break; discussing the updates on the Nigerian politics in the library; listening to the fiddle player living below me practice (fortunately for me, he was good!); finally getting to try out a newly developed playlist when it was my turn to bartend.
I was a student prior to most of the new developments and the Richard Laws Building, newly unveiled, was referred to for all the years I was at Eddies as simply “the new building”. Seeing the new modern library (with spiral stairs!) looks marvellous, but my affection lies with the tiny 2nd floor Norfolk library, our one and only, a place I spent so much time that my chair seemed to have moulded to my body. During exam time, we would sit almost shoulder to shoulder in that library, trying to fit our open notes and books together on the table, while others laid on the floor. And as the library served as a hallway of sorts, there was the oddly frequent occurrence of a student passing through, in a bathrobe or towel, to take a shower on the other side. Even in the middle of the stress of exams, squashed together in that little library, I cant recall any real complaints, but rather my predominant memory is the sense of comradery in what seemed to be a joint struggle for survival.
Eddies is an incredibly special place where the right combination of people fostered an environment that supported students far beyond just academics. My time at Eddies did truly impact the trajectory of my life, and I am forever grateful to have had the good fortune to have had it as my literal, and figurative, home for those years.