Hello, my name is Ipsita, but while at Cambridge I fancied a change of time to the year 1687 and a change of name to Isaac Newton. During those unforgettable twelve days, I simultaneously enjoyed the present-day Cambridge and got inspired by its legacy in producing physicists who had changed our perception of reality. In short, Cambridge Winter College 2016 was a life-altering experience that opened my eyes to the wonderful things I could accomplish in the future as a physicist and gave me the confidence to apply to Oxbridge.
Born and brought up in a middle-class Indian household where any diversions from the set educational path are frowned upon, I was unaware of the world of scientific exploration that was going on outside India. Being raised in a culture that dictates the future of every child as a doctor or an engineer, I never could have imagined that my rebellious love for astrophysics would take me to Cambridge. Only after being awarded a full scholarship to attend the winter programme did I realise that my passion could take me to places my imagination couldn’t.
After being introduced to topics like quantum mechanics, special relativity and group theory during my physical sciences and mathematics lectures, my perception of the universe changed. We are but a physical manifestation of the state of seven octillion atoms, all changing their states randomly, and it took a while to sink in. Through my interactions with fellow students at the breakfast table and during our lunch breaks, I was introduced to British culture and cuisine. By the end of the programme, I had learned about different Asian and European philosophies and cultures and had made friends who were always willing to help me.
During our lunch breaks, we were free to explore Cambridge in pairs. From my first step out of the college, I knew that this was home. Light from the lofty stained-glass windows flanking King’s College Chapel softly became one with my soul. The rousing smell of freshly roasted coffee beans and the shrill sounds from the espresso machine in Aromi pushed my senses into another dimension of sensitivity. As I ran my fingers in joyful circles along the chapel’s soothingly rough limestone walls, somewhere in the distance, the Corpus Clock chimed a harmonious melody. All my senses united to become one unknown entity, and Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls (my interpretation of which was at that time, quite literal) resonated through my entire persona, making my Cambridge Winter College experience no lesser than a spiritual journey.
Walking the same streets that the great Isaac Newton had once wandered, I could feel the universe revealing its secrets to me. A small speck of the universe that had produced great men was my home too.
In times of self-doubt, these memories remind me of all the wonderful places and opportunities that are waiting for me, if I only open my mind and heart to them.
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