By Emma Lowe @Emma_features
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Videographer / Director: John Robertson
Producer: Amanda Stringfellow, Nick Johnson
Editor: Kyle Waters
But for American undergraduate Caroline Calloway, the aristocratic traditions and elite rules have left her baffled but enchanted.
Sharing her ‘Harry Potter’ adventures online, the excitable 23-year-old is now writing a book going behind the scenes at Britain’s most prestigious university.
Caroline – from New York – has racked up nearly 300,000 followers on social networking site Instagram and regularly blogs about her run-ins with the ‘bizarre but wonderful’ culture of Cambridge.
Thrusting herself into university life, the student has enjoyed a succession of May Balls, formal dinners, and weekend escapades to rival university Oxford, and has even dined in the famous private members-only ‘Pitt Club’.
Showing her world through the eyes of all-American rose-tinted glasses, she said: “I love Cambridge so much, in the evangelical way only an immigrant can.
"In the States we don’t have castles – it’s literally like if one part of one old building in Cambridge was transplanted to America it would be our greatest national treasure.
"I just love everything here, it’s so different and alien to everything I grew up on, I want to share it with everyone.
“The rules are so funny and bizarre and it’s just incredible to imagine the history that people have been studying here for hundreds and hundreds of years.
“I feel like I’m in Harry Potter, turning up for dinner in the grand hall in my robes and having beautiful three course meals. I’m still getting used to which way to lean when they serve you.
“I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve had to Google etiquette. Not because I necessarily want to change to be British but more because I don’t want to horribly embarrass myself or be rude to the host.
“It’s been a steep learning curve but so much fun.
“The British just have so many forks but I love all the history.”
Keeping her lips firmly sealed on any secret clubs, she said: “I have been really adopted by British friends and I have been lucky enough to be invited hunting and to the Pitt Club.
“It was pretty amazing – they have a picture of Eddie Redmayne in the toilets.
“It is like most things Cambridge, bizarre and beautiful, full of boys in tweed.”
A mature student, Caroline is currently undergoing her second year at St Edmund’s College studying history of art.
After leaving Phillips Exeter Academy boarding school in New Hampshire five years ago, she became a full-time New York blogger - before deciding to further her studies in the UK last year.
Now when she isn’t attending tutorials and lectures, Caroline is writing her Cambridge tales alongside her pictures, in what she describes as a ‘new kind of memoir’.
The student blogs about her life with friends on campus and documents twee weekends spent with them in the country.
Caroline gives readers a glimpse into the life of students behind the exclusive college walls – drinking on the college lawns, revising on the 'backs of Kings', attending garden parties and dancing at May Balls.
And she marvels at events like Trinity College's 'Court Run' in the Autumn, a race where students down copious amounts of port before attempting to run around the square before the grand clock strikes twelve.
At times baffled by quirky Brits, Caroline admits there are elements of our aristocratic traditions, which wouldn’t wash in all-American New York City.
She said: “The Brits are so different from the Americans - I'm sure they think I'm crazy but unlike New Yorkers they are too polite to tell you.
"American college students like to drink shots at Frat parties but here they like to drink three types of wine at dinner.
“I got my room by chance but in the States they would find the fact that sometimes they assign rooms on test scores baffling - the idea that you get a better room based on grade just wouldn’t happen in New York.
“Only certain people of a certain status can walk on the lawns – I think if I didn’t write my blog or take photographs my American friends just wouldn’t believe that these things happen.
“Its archaic, almost medieval sometimes. I do think it’s snobby, and slightly ridiculous but in an incredibly endearing British way and I find the old traditions just mesmerising.”
Now in her second year, Caroline lives in Downing College - when she isn’t travelling around Europe, to Paris or Venice, to soak up her favourite artworks in real life.
Caroline jokes that she came to study in England to avoid the ‘math’ requirement set on college applications in the States.
But when she isn’t attending lectures in beautiful ‘castle-like buildings’, Caroline makes sure her social calendar is full to the brim.
And she is currently working hard to blow off steam after exams and essays for the notorious 'May Week.'
“May Week is such an amazing week, everyone was already talking about it when I arrived in October, so I was worried it wouldn't live up to the hype," she said.
“But then May Week came and it was fabulous. I had to sell a kidney to pay for all the balls,” she joked, "but it was totally worth it.
“Tickets vary from £90 going all the way up to £250 for certain balls – which are white tie and only happen every three years.
“I don’t think Americans even really know what white tie is. I certainly didn’t when I first came here. Its just a totally different type of glamour, it is another world.
“America does a lot of things well, hot dogs, obesity and fun - but we don’t do glamour like the Brits.
“I went to Trinity Ball last year. It is held in the most stunning setting, the girls all look beautiful and the men look like they’re from a BBC period drama.”
Lifting the lid on working hard and playing hard, Caroline told how her and college friends have broken into garden parties and even accidentally stole a punt overnight.
She added: “Summer in Cambridge is magical. After exams students punt to a nearby village called Grantchester where the picnics range from bucolic and stress-reducing to rowdy and Prosecco-fuelled.
“Last term when we accidentally stole a punt we ended up getting horribly drunk and abandoning ship.
“The next morning we got up early and hungover to return it before anybody noticed it was missing."
Caroline is currently in the process of writing her book, a collection of funny essays and pictures about her escapades, which will be released in 2016.
Other anecdotes include the evening she and her boyfriend got trapped in the Palace of Versailles overnight and when she was featured in Hounds magazine because of her ‘rather inappropriate hunting attire’.
But her secret favourite thing about Cambridge is the British accent.
Caroline gushed: “I definitely grew up with the hollywood tropes of the American girl who meets the dashing Hugh Grant boy.
"I want to clarify that I am not one of those tragically old-fashioned girls who goes to college only to find a husband. I love my degree, period. But I'm not complaining about all the dashing British accents.
“I love that everyone sounds so proper and lovely, even when I can't understand what’s going on around me - there's no where else |'d rather be."