The Thouron Scholarship is available to students from Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. Emily Hoeven was one of the lucky students selected from the University of Pennsylvania for the 2016 PKP.
What made you want to apply?
I didn’t know about the programme until Penn U’s fellowship office emailed about the Thouron Scholarship. When I realised that not only is it a full scholarship, but also an opportunity to be at Cambridge, a fantastic research opportunity and a chance to meet people from all round the world I was sold.
What are the benefits of being a Thouron Scholar?
The two major bonuses are that we arrive earlier than everyone else so we had a really great chance to bond with one another and to explore Cambridge without anyone else being there which was pretty special. We also had a Thouron seminar each week with presentations which is very nice because you get to apply what you’re learning in the seminars, on your course, and generally about Britain when you’re at those events.
Did you noticed any differences in the way courses are taught in Cambridge as opposed to at Penn?
I found the course to be super theoretical, looking at more than what is in front of you and asking ‘what is reading’ for instance and ‘what does it mean to look at a book’ which is so cool. It was also very focused on context unlike the States.
As a Thouron Scholar, you were required to take a supervision, how did you find it?
The quantity of reading is comparable to a thesis and it definitely helps prepare for writing a thesis. In the first supervision, my supervisor refuted everything I had written so quickly but in a constructive and mind-blowing way. Asking me “have you thought about it this way or considered this?” and I would say, “no, no I haven’t”. It causes you to rethink everything. The professors are challenging at Penn but never like this. I told the supervisor that I felt like I didn’t know how to read and by that I meant, how to read in the ‘Cambridge way’, how he reads. I wanted to be able to read like that. It was been super fascinating as well as challenging.
What about the social life?
I found that there’s more emphasis on the good parts of being social. The cafes, and the town itself is super conducive to doing stuff and being around people in a completely manageable way. Everyone really encourages you to go out and explore whereas at home it’s a bit more focused on staying on campus. You know you’ve settled in when you’re no longer asked if you want to go punting.
What were the stand out things for you?
I think the combination of people and place. I knew the other Penn students before we came but to know them in Cambridge is a very different experience to knowing them at Penn. It’s something about the weirdness of being with them in a different country. It’s so surreal almost but it’s beautiful and special. That’s how I felt about all the others students on the programme. Just the insanity that we’re all there together in that place. Only we will have that experience.
I’m also really obsessed now with questioning myself about the basic notion of what we do and I want to take that back with me, I mean, what does it mean to read a page, how does my eye interact with it in a certain way. That can take you off into open space, but there’s something really valuable in slowing it down and taking the time to analyse and think deeply about things.
What advice would you give to students for next year?
It’s easy to go to extremes because it’s so easy to get caught up in everything but find the middle ground between staying up till 3am to talk and exploring and also taking advantage of your supervision and wanting it to be meaningful.