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Department of Geography


Geography at Cambridge: Student profiles

Antoinette Cooper


The first thing that attracted me to studying geography at Cambridge was the breadth of topics covered within the Tripos. The thought of researching glacial processes and a week later the financial crisis while being encouraged to read beyond the reading list really excited me. Another key aspect of the course that drew me in was the opportunity to have supervisions in small groups with academics in an understanding space where I could explore the many questions which arose.

So far, my favourite topic has been “Environmental Change during the Quaternary” because I had no prior knowledge in this module. Hence, all progress made has felt like an accomplishment in a really interesting field. This module has allowed me to explore my love for natural landforms (yes, I have a rock collection) and delve into their formation in depth. I have also particularly enjoyed “The Cryosphere” because of the way lectures themselves are structured giving enough time to write down valuable information and reiterating key points meaning students are not left disorientated, especially followed by a supervision to raise any concerns. While supervisions seem daunting at first, a detailed reading list is provided, and it is a great place to start. Getting to know fellow academics and becoming comfortable over time through a shared interest for a topic during supervisions has also been lovely and an experience I look forward to next year when I begin to specialise.

In addition to this, the students and staff are extremely willing to help with any and all concerns. Students mainly provide aid through group chats and staff reply to emails fairly quickly and provide very useful guidance which is extremely pleasant. The environment is exceptionally supportive, and students have access to a vast range of resources which definitely removes an aspect of stress.

An initial concern of mine was being able to find a work-life balance, as well as personal organisation. After finding a routine in terms of societies, lectures, dinners, essays and waking hours, everything really comes together into an inclusive and welcoming place which was an extremely nice feeling to experience.

Speaking of the work life balance, a few societies that I have been involved in and highly recommend are Anime Society, Steers Society for geographers specifically, CUGS (The Cambridge University Geographical Society) and Mixed Martial Arts. I have been accompanied by fellow geographers a number of times and has always absolutely fantastic. The amount of contact hours and flexible nature of a geographical timetable enable a significant amount of control over how time is spent. As a result, while occasionally stressful, the Geographical Tripos has been extremely rewarding so far, I have enjoyed it immensely and I would recommend to anyone thinking of applying.

2nd Year Undergraduate

Harriet Brien


Finishing school with A Levels in Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Geography and a very broad range of interests meant choosing a course to study at degree level was tricky. After much research and deliberation, and a gap year taking part in the Year in Industry scheme and travelling in South East Asia, I concluded that it was geography that offered the unique combination of the sciences and humanities which I was looking for. Having finished my first year as a geography student at Cambridge, I am confident that I made the right decision.

One of my initial concerns when applying for the course was the fact that it has a lot fewer contact hours than something like the Natural Sciences Tripos. Before university I was also not the most avid of readers and was a bit worried that I would find myself with hours on end trying to read piles of books. Fortunately, I have found the work-life balance of a Cambridge geographer to be very manageable. Reading lists for supervision essays and lectures make it easy to select and find texts to read which are both fascinating and useful. The essay turnaround of about one a week each on a different topic also helps to structure your time and terms. Reading widely helps to explore the interlinking concepts throughout both human and physical geography as well as discovering what really interests you most about the subject. I have valued the equal mix of human and physical modules in the first year, which has opened my eyes to fields I didn’t even know existed, and I aim to maintain this balance in my second year of study.

Alongside my studies I have also enjoyed making the most of some of the many opportunities Cambridge has to offer, in particular rowing for my college and organising the College winter ball. There are also a range of grants available from college to university level to support students with additional travel abroad. This summer a college grant enabled me and two fellow geographers to travel to Iceland and see the natural wonders the country has to offer. A fantastic experience! I am also looking forward to future travel opportunities as part of the Geographical Tripos, including the second year field trip to Tenerife and a dissertation research trip next summer.

2nd Year Undergraduate

Jessica Dobson


Even after finishing A-level geography I was unsure of whether I was a human or physical geographer and had always enjoyed both aspects of the subject. Consequently, I was reluctant to choose a degree which might force me to pick between them. I was attracted to the Cambridge geography course because of the diversity of human and physical modules offered. However, it was not until I started my first year that I really appreciated the enormous breadth of topics encompassed by the subject of geography! My first year has provided an introduction to a very broad range of topics: covering areas from the geography of subprime mortgages and the financial crisis, to sustainability and biogeography. I am now planning on continuing to study a mixture of both human and physical papers in my second year.

I have found the geography department, both staff and other students, to be a welcoming and friendly place. When I arrived in Cambridge I was nervous and daunted by the grand buildings, traditions and other students who I thought must all know more than me. However, I soon found that my Director of Studies and other supervisors were always willing to help me and they have all guided me through my first year, providing the support I needed to find my feet.

Supervisions provide an amazing opportunity to engage with academics and this contact time is one of the features which sets studying at Cambridge apart from many other institutions. In my first year I have typically had one supervision a week, usually in small groups of no more than three. Initially I worried that supervisions may be a scary experience where the supervisor would ask impossible questions and expect me to have all the answers. However it isn’t actually like that at all. Supervisions are a chance to discuss and debate the material you have been studying and also to improve your understanding of things you may have struggled with. I have found that supervisors are always happy to answer my questions – no matter how obvious the answers!

During my first year I have also enjoyed being able to get involved in a wide range of activities beyond my studies. This has included events run by CUGS (The Cambridge University Geographical Society) and also college rowing and other university societies. In my opinion geographers are some of the most active and sociable people in the university. The relatively flexible nature of our timetables means geography students can manage their studies around an incredible range of other activities and societies.

I have found that the fantastic teaching, contact time with academics and the friendly and sociable atmosphere make the Cambridge geography department a great place to study.

Second year undergraduate

James Pearson

School stimulated my ambition to read Geography. The subject is very diverse, offering a wonderful opportunity to discover our physical environment and its interaction with humanity. The breadth of the degree is exceptional. I specifically chose Geography at Cambridge as it offers the chance to discover the full extent of the subject but also specialise as my own interests develop. Furthermore, the potential to discuss critical questions with world leading academics in small group supervisions has allowed me to deepen my knowledge and understanding of specific and challenging topics.

So far, the course has been thoroughly enjoyable and enriching, my favourite topic has been The Historical Geography of Globalisation. This module has showed how society has transformed throughout history whilst has also expanded my interest in the role of Geography in past societies. Supervisions are focused through targeted essays and expanded by discussions with your Director of Studies, supervisors and other students. I have found that staff and fellow students are very quick and willing to help, and this has created a supportive environment to expand my knowledge and widen my interpersonal and communication skills.

The Cambridge environment is tuned to supporting students and providing a full work-life balance. As well as focused learning, I have made friends through lots of societies, including the Geographical Society. My first year of studying has developed my academic interest and myself, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone considering applying.

1st year undergraduate