My first year at university

Musician Kyla La Grange tells the Guardian about her first year at Pembroke College, Cambridge

I was really, really nervous going to Cambridge. I didn't know anyone else going and I thought everyone else would know each other because they'd all been to public school. Of course, it wasn't like that at all. When we arrived, the college had put on drinks in the library for freshers and their parents, which meant we all had two little bodyguards. And everyone was really friendly, so the nerves dissipated quite quickly.

I can't remember my first lecture, but I remember my first discussion group because one girl took against me. I had only read the word finite and never heard it said, so I pronounced it "finit", as in definite. She corrected me with, "I think you mean finite" – which was terrifying. But I absolutely loved my course overall. The work was brilliant – not only did I find the subject interesting, but also everyone was so involved in what they were studying. At school it just wasn't cool to be interested in work.

I chose Pembroke because it was so beautiful, and I really wanted to live in an old, ramshackle building. So I remember being really disappointed to find that I was going to be living in the one new block – and in the only single-sex corridor in the whole college. But come winter, I soon realised how important it was to be in the one building where the heating actually made a difference. We had really good showers, too.

I kind of overstretched myself on clubs and societies. There were so many things I enjoyed and I wanted to do it all. I started doing lots of music and playing gigs and doing performances, but I was also running for the university team and I didn't realise that it was such a full-time commitment. If you have to get up at seven for training when you have played a gig the night before, it starts to show.

University was the best thing for me in terms of starting to play. I had always written songs at home, but never had the guts to play my own songs. Every college runs open-mic nights, and because no one knew me I could just turn up and play and it didn't matter whether I was any good. I met people to be in bands with and friends – it was the best way to get the confidence to start playing my own stuff and learning about what it's like to be in a band.

Top Tip

Be kind to people. It's the easiest thing to do, easier than trying to be cool or whatever. There will always be people in any social situation who feel a bit insecure and so try to put other people down, and I think that's the worst thing you can do – be as friendly and helpful to other people as you can, and you will get that in return.

Kyla La Grange achieved a 2.1 in Philosophy, she studied at Pembroke College, Cambridge from 2004-07. Her new single, Been Better, is out now through Chess Club Records


Mira Katbamna

The GuardianTramp

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