Across the Pond

A year in the other Cambridge

Newnham College


I’m skipping class this morning (what? it’s a Saturday!), so I figured I ought to be productive and do laundry, clean my room, and write a proper blog post 🙂 …not necessarily in that order, because the first two would require me to get up and move around.

The University of Cambridge is actually a collection of 31 colleges, and every student must be a member of one. In fact, the undergrads apply to colleges rather than to the university, and everything–academic or otherwise–is handled by the college. It’s a little different for grad students, because we’re actually admitted by our department, but colleges still handle a lot of the administrative stuff (living, eating, sleeping). Since the colleges are so important, they all have interesting history, and a lot of them own much of the land in Cambridge–and have pots of money too.

Newnham College is one of three constituent women’s colleges at Cambridge, and the second one to be founded. (Girton College was the first, and is about 2 miles from city center because that was deemed a “safe distance” away for women.) The first students at Newnham had to ask professors to be allowed to sit in their lectures and were not given degrees. In fact, women could not receive degrees from the university until 1948, at which point they were granted retroactively to people like Rosalind Franklin!

My dorm is actually named after her, and we call it the RFB for short (Rosalind Franklin Building)


There’s a bust of her opposite my block that’s almost completely covered by ivy:Image

kinda creepy, right?

Anyway, what’s particularly interesting is how deliberately feminine the architecture is, especially compared with some of the other colleges.


This is Pfeiffer Arch, which used to be the main entrance before the Porters’ Lodge (aka the p’lodge) was built in the 60’s or 70’s on a different side of the college.


This is Sidgwick, named after the founder of the college, Henry Sidgwick. It was supposed to be the front of the college, but it faces in away from the street, so instead it looks upon the gardens!



Newnham has the second longest continuous covered walkway in Europe, because women were “too delicate” to be exposed to weather when walking in between buildings. It reminds me of the Infinite, except with a lot of fire doors.


This is the Buttery, which was renovated in 2007 and is very… pink. It’s essentially like a cafeteria and is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s also a dining hall, which we only eat in for formal dinners, so I don’t have a picture (but there’s a fuzzy one in my Matriculation post!).

And lastly, a peek at the old Library entrance. I have more pictures of the library that I’ll post later 🙂



2 thoughts on “Newnham College

  1. Are men allowed during the day? night?

    I’d enjoy some of that European architecture in Cali.

    Are there lounges in the dorm? That’s something I miss about undergrad — the amount of community space everywhere.

  2. Yes, and yes. Although I brought one of my classmates to the library to study with me, and everyone was looking at him funny.

    Seriously, it’s so pretty here! A lot of people here are used to it, but my walk every morning makes me happy!

    Kind of… we have a kitchen that I occasionally see people in. There’s a grad student room in college that I think people hang out in, but I don’t go there often.

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