The Cambridge University Students Union is organising the 18th edition of the Cambridge Shadowing Scheme. Its main purpose, according to the official website, is to bring UK students from state schools without a tradition of top university entry to Cambridge for three days, in which they would have the chance to spend time with an undergraduate and ‘shadow’ them in the subject they are studying. The idea of this programme was to give them a real taste of student life right from the ‘source’.

I was lucky enough to receive a place on the programme – the number of application has by far exceeded the expectations of the organisers, with over 3000 applicants out of which only around 360 were accepted. Mostly all costs were covered by CUSU, which encouraged people from all backgrounds to participate.

On the first day, the students had a Welcome Talk at Emmanuel College, where Olivia Hylton-Pennant, the Access and Funding Officer of the CUSU, gave us a brief overview of what we were going to experience in the next few days. After that, all students were distributed to different colleges around Cambridge, typically in those that their ‘mentors’ (undergraduates) attended.

The rest of the day was filled with social time with new faces – the perfect time for Q&A about Cambridge! However, the highlight of the day was definitely the formal dinner at Trinity College, which took place in the beautiful hall that looked very much like a Harry Potter setting.

The second day has been dedicated to academic sessions – the ‘shadows’ went with their mentors to lectures, supervisions and classes, according to their subject of interest. The content was, as expected, of a high academic level, and the professors and lecturers were friendly and highly-competent in their approach to students. After a very brain-challenging morning, students had the chance to choose between a wide range of activities – whether it was a tour of the picturesque town or of the immense University Library, movie/quiz night, information workshops or the Murder Mystery puzzling experience, students had a lot of fun with their mentors and their new friends.

Finally, the third day gave us a final surprise: a very interesting talk from Dr Sam Lucy, Admissions Tutor and Fellow at Cambridge University in which she explained the whole application process and what students should consider when applying for university, particularly Cambridge.

Overall, the feedback was very positive on all sides. “I wish I had this opportunity when I was in Year 12, it’s an amazing scheme!”, admitted Isobel, mentor and first year History undergraduate. Victoria, one of the year 12 shadows, said: “I saw what student life is really like, I would certainly recommend it to other people!”

I could not agree more. It was a certainly eye-opening experience that encouraged me to consider Cambridge as a future university choice. If you want to find out more about the programme, you can visit the website

by Ioana Staicu, Oriel High School