Zahra Kamaruddin, a student at the University of Hong Kong, attended the Pembroke-Kings Programme in the summer of 2015.
“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change” – Carl Rogers
Cambridge is a small, beautiful historic city with winding cobblestone roads, majestic colleges, and famous gothic architecture. The university itself has an intriguing history, especially in relation to the structure of its degrees, where mathematics is the oldest examined Tripos at the University. The colleges, too, have their own historic tales to tell with their respective alumni.
Studying abroad is daunting because many things seem different and it takes time to adapt to a daily routine but that is also where the beauty of studying abroad is found. Here, you get to challenge yourself and take the initiative to explore an unfamiliar setting, and you meet great individuals in the process. I can definitely say that studying abroad on the Pembroke-King’s-Programme was a unique experience. The academic rigour, combined with the cultural diversity of the students in the programme, made it stand out. The academic intensity of the courses I studied, including the readings, lectures, and seminar discussions, have trained me for future studies and academic research in the humanities and social science disciplines.
Grounded in the concept of independent and critical thinking, Cambridge always asks that students develop their own opinions, learn to clearly express them and argue persuasively. Writing essays in ‘Cambridge style’ was both challenging and rewarding for someone not used to consistently developing concise yet compelling arguments. The type of questions I was asking and answering was also divergent. With the support from students and the academic sessions offered by the Pembroke office, I was able to produce well-written pieces for my courses. I was especially grateful for my professors’ feedback and the help of the PAs. With their help, I was able to fully understand how to write and structure my essays. Furthermore, the programme gave me the opportunity to meet great individuals, most of whom I was able to study and spend time with throughout the programme.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, I currently study History and Global Studies with a minor in Journalism and Media Studies at the University of Hong Kong. Growing up in a lively and cosmopolitan city has me all the more interested in exploring new places and perspectives. I chose to study on the programme because I wanted to improve my ability to think critically as well as improve my style of academic writing.
A variety of courses were on offer, with subject areas ranging from the history of British-American intelligence cooperation and peace keeping to material science. The courses that I studied were European History 1900-2015 (Professor Steinberg), English Common Law (Professor Bell, John Magyar, Joe Sampson) and Medicine and Disease in Modern Europe (Professor Barnett). Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed all three modules over the course of the eight weeks. They were intellectually stimulating and changed my perspective.
As a History student, I found the History of Medicine and Disease in Modern Europe fascinating because I was taught how diseases can be socially constructed and framed while also, analysing the various diseases in their historical contexts. For my final paper, I framed SARS, which was interesting to research and write about. Although it is a fairly contemporary disease, I found out that it is one that was highly politicised. European History was illuminating because we tried to build our own historical model based on the readings. One of the major takeaways from the course was the enormous impact of the First World War and its continuing influence even today. English common law was challenging but also rewarding. We discussed topics such as but not limited to parliamentary sovereignty, the European Court of Justice and defamation. Learning about the English legal system and the hierarchy of courts was intriguing especially because of the class visit to the Cambridge Crown Court. That was my first time witnessing a pretrial. On the whole, the training that I received from my courses included honing in on my argumentative skills, finding holes in my own arguments and adequately structuring my essays.
Outside classes, the PAs planned and arranged activities in and around Cambridge, including punting, visits to the Botanical Garden, jazz nights, movie nights, college tours, trips to attractions such as Anglesey Abbey, and more. I was not able to participate in as many activities as I would have liked to, due to timetable clashes and my course load. However, the activities I did attend were fun and I was able to meet other students outside of the classroom and speak to the PAs as well. Furthermore, I attended all the plenary lectures, lectures that highlighted areas explored by Cambridge professors. They were informative, thought provoking, and exposed us to new scholarship in the subject area.
I was constantly learning and changing throughout the programme. I absorbed a lot of information in a short period of time, I changed the structure and style of my essays and I adjusted to a different schedule everyday. At the end, I saw that my work had improved and that I have also become more proactive.
The programme pushed me on both an academic and personal level, which made my experience worthwhile.