This Cambridge Life

The student helping to demystify Cambridge

Tami in Cambridge

Tami Briggs didn’t want to apply to Cambridge but getting the right information made her change her mind. She became a volunteer for InsideUni, the student-led non-profit organisation that plugged the information gap for her at just the right time.

Studying for a degree at Cambridge seemed like an unobtainable goal – enough to make me not want to apply. The reality was that I simply lacked access to the right information.

I didn’t know anyone who had been through the Cambridge application process who I could ask for advice − I felt so unprepared. It wasn’t until I started going to access conferences organised by the African Caribbean Society, that I realised there were people at Cambridge from the same part of Kent as where I’m from and from the same socioeconomic background as me.

Tami on bridge

Discovering InsideUni changed my perceptions of what Cambridge would be like. InsideUni is a student-led organisation that provides a network of people who are studying at Oxford and Cambridge, and who are happy to chat about their experiences and offer advice.

I’m now a third-year student at Fitzwilliam College studying Human, Social and Political Sciences. One of the things I love about my course is that it’s such a collaborative environment − I gain so much from every single conversation. There’s space to have those important discussions which allow you to see the world in a different way.

During my second year I was the Students’ Union Access Officer for the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Campaign. I had the best team and we also got to do some cool things. One of my favourites was the creation of ‘welfare packages’ for students who were isolating or who just needed cheering-up. I received great feedback about the packs, which was really rewarding.

Tami on bridge

Another highlight was the open letter we wrote in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. It was a really difficult time for many people, and we felt it was necessary to draw attention to the issues affecting the Black community.

The open letter was a hit. I think people really understood the message we were trying to send. It was nice to see an online community come together and to give a platform to these important discussions, especially at a time when we were unable to be with each other in person.

I started volunteering for InsideUni in my first year and became part of the video team. This involved organising, publicising and hosting online Q&A videos with different speakers. Each session was on a different theme, for example we chatted about the interview process, being an international student and studying during the pandemic.

Tami with King's College in background

I'm so passionate about InsideUni because I want everyone to realise the options they have, so that they can make an informed decision. It's not about saying you must come to Oxford or Cambridge it’s about saying: “hey, if this is something that you genuinely want to do in the future, it is possible.”

What would I tell my younger self? I would say: “Don’t be afraid to reach out and tap into networks like InsideUni and use all the resources at your disposal, and don’t doubt yourself.” When you’re applying it’s so easy to compare yourself to others and to feel like you’re in competition. But I think applying to university is very personal − it’s an opportunity to learn more about yourself and what you’d like to do with your career in the future − so try to just focus on you!

If you’d like to support the work of InsideUni you can get involved by applying for one of their volunteer roles, providing content about your own experiences, or donating.

This profile is part of This Cambridge Life – stories from the people who make Cambridge University unique.

Words: Charis Goodyear. Photography: Lloyd Mann.