Some students have stories of schools dissuading them from applying to Cambridge; of beating the odds to prove their own capabilities. For Carmen Lim it was the opposite.
“Cambridge was never something I had thought about, but I went to quite an intense school, and they were very keen that I should apply.”
Carmen had left her home in Malaysia to attend a boarding school in North Wales, before coming to Homerton to read Law.
“Cambridge can be quite intimidating, and Homerton looked the friendliest of the Colleges. It’s definitely lived up to that. It’s very easy to talk to people, and when you bump into people, even if you don’t know them well, they’ll always say hello and stop for a chat.”
Before beginning her student life Carmen, who was born with one arm, had already broken records as an international competitive swimmer.
“I thought I was going to have to retire from sport when I came to Cambridge, as I’m a para-swimmer, so I’m slower than the average team member. But everyone was so welcoming, and I’ve been able to swim with the University team throughout my time here.”
When swimming pools were closed during lockdown, Carmen was forced to find an alternative form of exercise and briefly took up running, competing in the Cambridge half-marathon this spring. But she’s now back in her natural element, and plans to swim in the South East Asian Games this August.
“I like swimming a lot more than running!” she admits.
Lockdown presented other difficulties, as when UK students returned home Carmen remained in an almost-deserted College.
“In the Lent term a lot of people weren’t around, but quite a few of my friends were still here. And actually, being physically at university made it much easier to feel I was still ‘doing a degree’ than if I had been at home.”
Although she already has a job offer in Malaysia, Carmen is considering her options. Her UK adventure may not be ready to finish just yet.