A postgraduate's view on starting at Cambridge University

Rowena Squires

After taking a break from academia to consider her options, Rowena Squires felt daunted before she applied to study at Cambridge. But once she got started, the process was clear - and everything fell into place. 

Rowena Squires

Rowena is now studying part-time for a PhD in the Faculty of Education, focusing on historical memory in children’s animation. She is one of almost 400 students at Wolfson studying as a part-time postgraduate – a rich and vibrant international community of mature students.

With the first term behind her, Rowena looks back on her journey to Cambridge and gives her first impressions of her new college and university.      

Why did you apply to Wolfson College?  

After completing my Masters during Covid lockdown, I took a break from academia to re-energise and consider my options. A short stint working for a film company and in the corporate world confirmed that I was ready to return to academia! When applying to Cambridge, a mature College appealed to me, but wasn’t a necessity. I ended up applying to Wolfson because everyone I spoke to only had good things to say about it – how friendly, inclusive and international it is – and that’s why I applied here!

What was the application process like?

Daunting. Colleges, Faculty, the University – I wasn’t sure at first to whom I was applying. I got in touch with my supervisor beforehand, who was great, and luckily the actual application process was clear once I got started.

I also ended up switching my application to part-time and the admin teams at both Wolfson and the Education department were fantastic at explaining the process and helping me through it – so thank you to them!

What are the biggest challenges of starting at Cambridge University? And what’s been your favourite thing?

The biggest challenge starting at Cambridge has definitely been getting my head around the college system. I am not sure I still fully understand it – but I know that Wolfson is the best college! My favourite thing is being within academia again and Cambridge is such a vibrant, academic city, there are always events and lectures happening and people around to discuss ideas with.

What has the first term at Wolfson been like?

Wolfson College has been so welcoming. I live off-site, but whenever I come into the college there is always someone to talk to. What I like most about Wolfson is that everyone here is treated equally and with respect – I am yet to meet any egos!

How did you choose your PhD subject?

My background is in ancient history, but my PhD project looks at historical memory in children’s animation – it’s really interdisciplinary and at first it was difficult to know exactly which field it belongs in.

The Faculty of Education at Cambridge encompasses a wide range of research and encourages interdisciplinary research practices – and I realised my project does not have to belong to one discipline.

Being part of the Faculty of Education has been brilliant – it provides me with flexibility for both my current research and how I wish to position myself in the future. I also have great colleagues and have learnt so much from them – the Faculty of Education definitely feels the right home for both me and my project.

What's your plan after Cambridge?

Well, I have PLENTY of time before then. I am a part-time PhD student so I am here for at least five, maybe up to seven years! But after I finish my programme I would like to remain working in a field adjacent to academia – ideally working in media where I can present my research in a public-facing environment – a Gen Z Alice Roberts, if you will!

Find out more

You can find out more about studying at Wolfson on our undergraduate and postgraduate pages. 

You can learn more about studying as a part-time student on our dedicated pages for part-time students