Up to six students from the University of California each year are awarded with the Pembroke College, Cambridge 1976 Scholarship. Kelly Chen, a psycho-biology major at UCLA, was one of those six on PKP 2016.
Why did you apply to PKP?
I applied for the programme in general because I had an older brother who came here a while ago so I knew about the programme. I always wanted to study abroad and I love all things British. It was also because it was the last summer before I graduate and it had always been something that I wanted to do. The fact that I could get a scholarship also made it more attractive as it meant I could do the independent supervision.
What courses did you take?
For module one I took The Psychology of Language, and for module two I did Good Life or Moral Life?. I also did a supervision project in music psychology. It’s great that the courses I’m taking will transfer into my college credits, so that I’ll get a lighter class load when I get back to UCLA.
How did you find the course?
It was pretty good, pretty different from UCLA. I work in a clinical psychology lab in UCLA and it’s a really big lab because the head of the lab is very prominent so it’s super hard to get one on one time with anyone. That’s not the case on PKP.
You came here not knowing anyone, how did you find settling in?
There’s a wide variety of people that you meet in dining hall so it’s just like going to school together. The Programme Assistants (PAs) also put on a lot of activities which I was really surprised about, and the activities give you plenty of chances to meet people. I was actually talking about this with Andy, the PKP sports coordinator, as I go running with him every day. Sometimes it’s only me that shows up so I get this great bonding time with him, but I’d say that’s been my favourite thing about PKP, the runs, because I’ve got to see more of Cambridge and keep up with my sport.
What have you got out of the whole experience?
Surprised of how much I’d like it here. I was scared it would rain and I would just hate it but that hasn’t been the case. There’s a lot of history that I appreciate even though I’m not much of a museum person. The biggest thing that I’ve taken away was that in the seminars and the classes that I attended, the lecturers actually wanted you to be learning something. At home our lecture theatres have like 300 people in them and no one notices if you aren’t there but here they really care if you’re learning something. During the first meeting with my supervisor, he expected me to know stuff and I was just staring at him but you get used to it and I now feel more confident to speak up in academic situations.
Do you feel like you’ve had the quintessential Cambridge experience?
I feel really privileged when I walk past the tourists and flash my ID card to get into places that they can’t. Everything here is just so different and a little bit weird. The pace of life here is much slower than in LA. There are trees and grass and cows which were very unexpected.
The whole experience has definitely lived up to expectations because I was just expecting class but there’s a whole range of things. I’ve done a lot of climbing and running, and I’ve been down to the Proms at the weekend. I’m a severely introverted person normally so being surrounded by people I don’t know has forced me to come out a bit more. I went out to play football with this whole cohort of people who don’t speak the same language which was definitely a new experience. I’ve also been to Cardiff and hiking up to Scotland on my own and it was great to be able to explore.