Getting Started

‘Forewarned is forearmed!’ It can be a bit daunting arriving in a new place for the first time. The information below lifts the veil on some practicalities of the Cambridge experience and sheds some light on what new arrivals can expect from life Pembroke.

For further information, you could also visit: Life at Pembroke and University of Cambridge: New students.

Q: What should I do first?

Come into College. If you have College accommodation, you’ll have to come to the Porter’s Lodge to get your keys – College will ask you to tell them when you are going to arrive. Unless you arrive very early, you’ll probably have a stack of papers in your pigeonhole waiting for you. After you have collected these, come along to the GP (M staircase) and meet people; we can tell you about any organizational things that you have to get sorted out after you arrive.

Q: What then?

Find your department and make sure they know you have arrived, and check that they have the correct details etc. If they have arranged an induction programme they will advise you of this. They will probably want you to fill out some more forms and you may need to have your photo taken. The one essential thing you’ll need to do in College is attend Matriculation. This is the ceremony at which you officially become a member of the University and the College. It is preceded by a group photograph and you need to wear a gown when you do this. There will also be a matriculation dinner for new graduates the following Monday. Please note that you only matriculate once into the University and Pembroke so if you have been an undergraduate here you do not do it again. If you were at Cambridge as an undergraduate but at another college, then you only need to matriculate into Pembroke, not the University.

Q: What happens in Freshers’ Week?

Freshers’ Week can be quite a hectic time. The GP will organize events throughout the week for graduates to meet each other, we will put details in your pigeonhole and post them on our website nearer the time. Your department will probably also have various introductory things for you to attend. In addition there’s the Freshers’ Fair with all the University societies (there is also a version in College for the College-based societies).

Q: What should I bring and what does College provide?

There are quite a few smart dress dinners and events in Cambridge, both lounge suit and black tie or cocktail dress for the ladies. If you don’t own them, they can be bought or hired at reasonable prices. However, as you’ll be here for a while, buying is recommended as you will wear them regularly. You may also want to get an academic gown as they are worn to formal hall and a couple of other events in College. These, again, can be bought second hand in Cambridge, or may be hired from the Graduate Union. Just make sure you get the right sort (undergraduate gowns are slightly shorter and less elaborate). Furthermore, there are two different types of graduate gown: the BA gown, and the MA gown to which you are entitled if you have reached the age of 24.

Most places in Cambridge are within walking distance, but cycling is a lot faster. If you don’t bring one with you, there are plenty of places to buy them either new or second hand in town. Shop around to get the best deal. Good quality second-hand bikes are available in the market at the “Bike Man” or at some local auctions. The porters may also know of a sale or a good deal. It is important that you invest in:

  • a good lock, as bike theft is common (preferably a D lock);
  • a helmet, as the traffic can be heavy and unpredictable. Too many students get injured, each year – so TAKE CARE;
  • bike lights – not only is it very dangerous to ride without lights but the police fine people if they don’t.

All of the College rooms allocated to first year graduates are connected to the College network. You are welcome to bring computing devices with you, but should you not have access, it may be possible to borrow one from College. Please speak to the IT Office (U-Staircase, New Court) regarding your specific circumstances.

College rooms are furnished with a desk, small table, bed, duvet, pillows etc, wardrobe, some shelves and cupboards, and a couple of chairs. If you need more furniture, or a heater, mention to this your “bedder” (cleaner).

College will provide bedding if you don’t have your own, but you’ll need to arrange it in advance with Ms Caroline Adams ( in the Linen Room and a deposit of £50 will be charged to your College bill.

Cooking Utensils
If you have a room in College itself the cooking facilities will be minimal – a couple of hotplates, a microwave and a fridge shared between several people – as you’re expected to use the Buttery most of the time. Cooking facilities are generally more extensive in the hostels.

Q: What else can you tell me?

Several banks in town have student accounts such as Barclay’s, HSBC, and NatWest. It is important to have the necessary information with you when you go to the bank (passport, letter from Cambridge/Pembroke accepting you as a student, letter from Pembroke that you have accommodation, previous bank statements). Be aware that you may need to make an appointment to open an account and the entire process may span over a week. Queues may be long, so it is best to go as early in the day as possible. Try and do this before the start of the undergraduate term as the banks will be very busy from that point onwards. As to opening a bank account, it’s not actually that hard. You need to prove who you are, where you live and that you’re a student at Cambridge (in order to open a student account). The Tutorial Office can supply you with the appropriate letters. Most national ID cards have your home address printed on them. Also, not all banks offer the same conditions, so it’s worth looking around.

Kitchen crockery can be obtained fairly reasonably from Sainsbury’s supermarket on Sidney Street, which is also the nearest supermarket to the College and open late Monday to Saturday. Argos, which can be found near the Grafton Centre on Burleigh Street, sells everything from TVs and lamps to calculators and soft furnishings. John Lewis is in the Grand Arcade at the end of Pembroke Street, and Debenhams, in the Grafton Centre, might be worth a visit too. If you need computer things, PC World is located a short bike or bus ride to the east of central Cambridge on the Newmarket Road and nearby are other large outlets such as Homebase, Halfords and larger supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda.

During matriculation and beyond, you will need a graduate academic gown to attend formal halls. At Pembroke, unless it is a very special occasion, gowns are required for all formal halls within the Hall. Graduate BA dinner, which is usually held on Thursday in the Old Library, does not require a gown. Several places around town rent gowns; however, it can be useful to either buy a new gown or a second hand gown. AE Clothier on Pembroke St often sells ex-rental gowns as well as new ones. Ryder & Amies on King’s Parade also rents and sells gowns.

Black Tie Dinners
Please be aware that up to several times a term Pembroke has black tie events (including end of term BA dinners, June event) and there are many opportunities to attend black tie events throughout the University. Places around town rent black tie attire but if you are planning on attending many black tie events it is advisable to either buy a new black tie suit or a second hand one.

Sports equipment
The GP has some casual sports equipment and access to a croquet set for use by all. Please ask for details of where this is stored.

Q: How will people be able to contact me?

Post should be sent to: <Your Name>, Pembroke College, Cambridge, CB2 1RF and will arrive in your pigeonhole. Faxes or phone messages for you sent to the College phone numbers will also be put in your pigeon-hole by the porters. You will receive details of your University email account from the University directly.

Q: How do I pay for things?

Most College things are included on your College bill, which you have to pay at the start of each term. Unfortunately your first bill may arrive before your first grant payment and remember your fees must be paid before you can matriculate. Rent for College rooms are paid termly in advance and almost everything else is charged on to the next term’s bill. If you pay for meals in College with your University card (you will get this when you arrive) it will be charged to your College bill; this applies to both meals taken in the buttery and formals etc. swiped for using the machine. There is a limit of £100 for each student. If this limit is reached, you can top up your card with cash at the Buttery till or Café Pembroke, or with a cheque (or debit card payment) to the Finance Office. It is extremely important that you open a bank account as soon as you arrive in Cambridge.

Q: How do I get there?

From Cambridge railway station, you can get a bus to the city centre – Pembroke is a 5 minute walk from the bus station. Alternatively, a taxi from the station is the easiest way and will cost you about five pounds. The main gate and Porter’s Lodge is by the corner of Trumpington Street and Pembroke Street, next to the red post box. There is a porter on duty 24 hours a day, however if you are going to be arriving late at night (after ~9pm) the gate will be locked so you should contact the Porter’s Lodge in advance to make arrangements. You can find a number of maps on the GP website as well as at the website below, which includes a map and clear directions on how to get to Pembroke, wherever you’re arriving from or at.

Any Other Questions?

Much more information available on the web and useful sites include:

If this doesn’t help, please feel free to contact the GP Committee with your questions. If you are from overseas and have a question relating to coming to the UK, it might help to know that many of the committee are also overseas students and we will all be happy to help in any way that we can. The GP reps go to various College meetings, graduate tutors meetings and GU and CUSU meetings, so let us know if you would like issues raised at any of these.

You can also contact the Tutor for Graduate Affairs (Loraine Gelsthorpe) or the Graduate Secretary (Frances Kentish). Both would be happy to answer any questions, although the GP committee should be your first port of call.

And for any other queries, please feel free as ever to contact the GP committee directly at

We look forward to meeting you soon!