Taking part in the telephone campaign for the second year has its advantages: I know roughly what to expect (getting through mainly to voicemail or, if I’m very lucky, to people whose meals I’m interrupting); I’ve practised talking over the phone to people I’ve never met, so this year the nerves have gone! Magdalene alumni, however, continue to surprise me with their stories, their love of College and their generosity.
I’ll admit it was at times hard to sit inside on one of the most glorious spring days this year, but when an actual person answers the phone and is free to talk to me, it makes it all worthwhile. I have enthused about lecturers I shared with someone who matriculated more than 10 years ago, discussed where I should get my May Ball dress and learned about what Cambridge was like when the ratio of men to women was 9:1. I have also had lots of reassurance from alumni that it’s really fine not to know what career I want to go into, despite graduating in three months, and that it’s completely acceptable to put off such difficult decisions with further studies and experiences (everything will be ok, really!). Everyone I’ve spoken to has followed interesting and often circuitous routes after leaving Magdalene.
As I near the end of my degree here, the thought of leaving the friends I’ve lived with for three years, as well as my subject (potentially) and College becomes more and more distressing. But again, Magdalene alumni are at hand to comfort me! One very nice man I spoke to actually, purely by chance, lives opposite one of the first people in his year he met here; many have spoken very warmly of the reunions they’ve attended. I’ve been told that the link with your subject can be as strong or weak as you like: no matter what you go on to do, the skills and interest you learn here can stay with you. Lastly College, which has become another home. Even if two people have never met and have completely different interests and experiences, time at Magdalene in common is more than enough to have a really great conversation. College seems to be comfortingly the same, although there have been big changes over the years. When I tell people that the new library will avoid the pet cemetery, everyone remembers and loves that familiar feature of the Fellows’ Garden. What we callers share with alumni goes deeper than the buildings: most people I speak to really enjoy the chance to walk down memory lane and join in an enthusiastic chat about College.
These conversations really are what makes telephoning worthwhile and are why I’m doing it for the second year running. Of course, it’s always an added bonus when alumni donate to the campaign (please do, it’s a good cause!), but that’s not what makes the job fun. The answer to the question: “Why are you really phoning?” for me honestly is to catch up with alumni and to hear about their time here. Especially after a long, caffeine and sugar-fuelled line of voicemails, I could happily chatter away for hours about College!