Ask the PAs: What makes PKP so special?

Ashley (Minister of  Fun) studied Classics at King’s College and is now on his second year as a PKP PA.

Genny studies Theology at Pembroke and is joining us for the first time this year.

Tonicha studied Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic at Pembroke and is moving to Iceland after 3 summers with PKP.


Ashley, Tonicha and Genny in PKP HQ

How has PKP changed since you started?


Year 1 was very different because we were in different premises back in 2015. Now we are in a very different teaching space, being in the Engineering Department means we have purpose built lecture rooms with great built-in facilities. While there are always some teething issues in the first couple of days, having dedicated teaching rooms makes things go much more smoothly. There are about the same numbers of students, around 350.

What do you look forward to most?

Ashley: I really enjoy the activities for the students.

Tonicha: It’s getting to know the individual students and their interests that’s most enjoyable.

Ashley: I found that during my undergraduate study there were so many activities I didn’t have time for.

Tonicha: First time I went to Grantchester was on a PKP trip!

Ashley: Same for me. It’s really nice to be in Cambridge over the summer and get to share the Cambridge life with the students, and try out things you’ve always wanted to do but not had the chance.

What kind of activities do you run for students?

Tonicha: We take them to Grantchester tea rooms, we take them to the Shakespeare festival which is outdoor theatre run throughout summer, that’s great.  We do movie nights, and we do a lot of sports.

Ashley: I do a lot of pub crawls and club nights.

Tonicha: We take them on sunset walks at Castle Mound, which they love, those are really popular.

Ashley: Tours of Colleges as well.  They stay in Kings and Pembroke but if we have a PA from Selwyn for instance like Teresa, she’ll take them around her College.

Genny, what are you looking forward to?

Genny: The activities, getting to enjoy Cambridge and be proud of it. It’s nice showing people around Pembroke, showing them the library. It helps me feel more grounded and I’m really happy to be here.

Tonicha: It’s an opportunity to step back and say, this is a really great place I live in.  During term we don’t have time to, say, go up Great St Mary’s Church and see the aerial view of Cambridge, we’re busy working. Now we’re still working but we’re putting in hours appreciating the city we’ve spent so much time in.  We watch the students appreciate it, as well as doing so ourselves.

What is an average day in the office?

Genny: I haven’t had an average day yet!

Tonicha: This is the first day on shift today.

Ashley: There’s a lot of setting up rooms and checking them between lectures and seminars.  We try to run activities during our shifts, so there might be four people in the office and two on activities.  Students come in to collect post and to ask queries.  Later in the programme they’ll come to hand in essays.  We spend a lot of time planning for the week ahead, looking over risk assessments for the activities we are organising for the students, booking activities, taking payments.  For example, Tonicha and I are using this time to plan our Latin classes.

What do the students enjoy about being here? If you were persuading someone to apply, what would you say?

Tonicha: It’s a Cambridge experience. You get to see Cambridge in summer which is absolutely wonderful.  They’re studying and living in Cambridge; they have access to the College environment and are experiencing an academically rigorous programme.  PKP students have opportunities to go travelling to see everything that Cambridge, the UK and Europe offers, but are also studying a fascinating range of programmes.  The range on offer changes every year but there’s always an interesting selection of modules.

Ashley: There’s something magical about Cambridge, the architecture, the formals, the traditions. And also meeting other students from around the world!

Tonicha: It’s so nice to see what they go on to do afterwards. When we keep in touch we see how important this time has been to them, whether they study for a Masters in Cambridge or whether they go on to Oxford or another University. This first step into international study has been so useful for many people.  Especially with it being Cambridge it opens doors, and gives them access to an experience they wouldn’t have otherwise had.

Ashley: You’ll see on Facebook students from last year who are in touch and go around visiting each other all around the world.

Tonicha: It’s very important to them to keep in touch with each other.


PAs in London after accompanying students on a boat ride down the Thames

What have you enjoyed most so far Genny?

Genny: So far, I’ve most enjoyed getting to meet new people, both amongst the PAs and PKP students. The PAs come from a variety of colleges and years, many of whom I never would have met elsewhere in Cambridge. It’s been inspiring to join their team which is so full of energy and ideas. I’ve also enjoyed meeting the students who have come from across the world to take part in this programme. It’s wonderful being able to share my love of Cambridge with them and hear about their own university experiences back home.

Do you have a favourite anecdote?

Tonicha: One of my favourite experiences running an activity was quite chaotic but it was good fun. It was the first sunset walk of the programme, it was just me because the other PA was ill, and I thought we wouldn’t have many students because we were four or five weeks into the programme.  But loads turned up! It was a struggle trying to take them up the road.  But then I got to the hill and I could see behind me this long line of students, sitting down together watching the sunset.  All they wanted to do was watch the sunset, they didn’t want to spend money or do anything complicated, and it was lovely. Chaotic, but it all worked out!




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