While in the church we heard some historical context of the University from SMU Professor Rita Kirk, director of the SMU-in-London program. We learned that John Harvard, although a graduate of Cambridge and a great mind, is loathed by Cambridge. Harvard borrowed many books from Cambridge’s library that began the Harvard library. Till this day, Cambridge asks Harvard for the initial books.
William Wilberforce, the main character in our common reading novel, Amazing Grace, as well as three signers of the Declaration of Independence and 80 Nobel Prize winners call Cambridge University their alma mater. These scholars all studied for three years before their final exam, or tripos. The term tripos is derived from the three-legged stool professors would sit on while students gave their oral examination. In earlier centuries, that examination was given in Latin. This significant culmination was meant to illuminate the entirety of knowledge students learned during their studies at their respective school. All of us were in awe of that idea, and many of us inquired how that type of learning would work in American colleges and universities.
We lightened the mood by exploring the quaint, yet sophisticated university town and visited many shops and markets. The abundance of fresh food and authentic gifts made us excited, as we all wanted to bring back trinkets from Cambridge.
Afterward we headed to Magdalene Bridge to embark on a Cambridge tradition, punting the cam. My first thought after I heard the phrase was football, but it is far from that. Punting the cam means to take in the sights of Cambridge from a boat, led by a punter.
The scenery was breathtaking and everything was very serene. We were able to see all of the regalia from the various May Balls that were happening throughout the campuses. May Ball is a graduation celebration that is reserved for the elite of society, and tickets start at 180 pounds (equivalent to $288).
We ended our Cambridge visit with a discussion of our common lecture novel, Amazing Grace, at The Orchard. We delved into amazing scones with homemade jelly and clotted cream along with fresh teas. The Orchard was planted in 1868 and became an ‘up-river river’ resort for Cambridge men. We ate and discussed in the same orchard that many philosophers, aristocracy, and great minds have and will continue to do for many years to come.
I’ll end this entry with the impact that Cambridge has left on the world.
“Cambridge has won more Nobel Prizes than France or Germany, and still today, as Bill Gates of Microsoft says, contains the biggest brains in the world.”