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The Black Lens: University of Cambridge Medical School

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

I have been studying at Cambridge University for the past 2 and a half years, though half of it has been through remote learning!

Cambridge can be a culture shock, especially for those from a large city. The roads are smaller and you are expected to walk and cycle to most places. I had to purchase a bike within the first week. There are lots of green spaces and although there is always something to do, it is not as busy as other university cities.

Course structure

The Cambridge medicine course consists of 3 years of pre-clinical study with the 3rd year being a year of intercalation. In the 3rd year you have the opportunity to study any subject of your choice, however most people stick to science-based courses. Some people do branch out and choose completely different subjects, such as sociology, philosophy, management or even astrophysics. Intercalation is followed by 3 years of clinical study with placements similar to other medical schools.

The course structure was quite surprising to me, as the first 2 years felt like I was simply doing a biomedical sciences degree. It can be quite hard to keep reminding yourself of the end goal as there is very little patient interaction. However, Cambridge strives to lay a very solid scientific foundation that will hopefully help in the clinical school and further on when treating patients.

One of the advantages of the course structure is that you can be involved in university-wide societies as much as any other undergraduate. Also, the distribution of students within colleges allows you to get to know lots of students that are not medics. In fact, a large proportion of my friends are not medics. There is the opportunity to be fully integrated within the university!


There are over 500 societies at university level, so there is definitely something for everyone! I would encourage students to join MedSoc. They run lots of events during the year and the welfare team are very supportive as well. There is also the Black Medics Society for African-Caribbean medical students which creates a supportive network throughout all the year groups and alumni. In addition, the more general African Caribbean Society runs lots of events and is a great place to meet people that may have similar interests.

I would also encourage people to join a sports society in any capacity; whether you want to compete at university level or the college level. College level requires very little commitment and time. It has been a nice way to meet new people and make friends across college and university.

Final Tips

What I wish I knew before I started

  • Bring hair products and essential seasoning: Cambridge as a city is not very diverse and there are very limited places to get black hair products and some food options (eg. plantain). It is easier to just bring it along. In terms of ethnic food, Mill Road is your best bet!

  • Take full advantage of the first 3 years and to mix with the general student population

  • Attend lots of events and talks that are not subject based: Cambridge invites lots of speakers every year to share their knowledge and experience. Whether they are in you particular field or not, their advice can be very beneficial.

Finally, make sure you enjoy your time at Cambridge and remember what an achievement it is to be there. You are at one of the best universities in the world - don’t forget to take that in!

Ayanfe Adebayo


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