“In the States we don’t have castles"
Caroline Calloway is living a privileged life and getting a huge following on Instagram in the process.
The 23-year-old New Yorker is currently studying art history at the prestigious Cambridge University in Britain, and her awestruck musings about the iconic institution, coupled with photographs of her experiences there, have captured the imaginations of over 302,000 people on the photo-sharing social network.
“I love Cambridge so much, in the evangelical way only an immigrant can,” one of her posts reads. “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.”
Much like Ring Pops and disposable razors, memories deteriorate with use. It’s science. According to a study by Northwestern University, every time we access a memory we tamper with it, editing the past with our feelings in the present. Or to put it like this: the only way to preserve our most precious memories is to forget them. Sometimes I worry that I’ve revisited my first weeks at Cambridge so often that the real story is too damaged to tell with accuracy—that something about the star-struck, devastated, bewildered way I felt when I arrived has been permanently paved over. I know now, for example, that Oscar and I will end up dating. We will spend Valentine’s Day in Paris and weekends at castles and untold hours of our lives watching movies on laptops. Cambridge will not always be a beautiful but hellish maze. I will, eventually, learn the street names; the college names; where to buy falafel at 3 AM (Gardies). I will even become friends with Josh after many upbeat and infrequent lunches in Manhattan. Once—and only once—Josh will say the name Oscar by mistake. “George,” I will correct him quickly. “The royal baby’s name is George.” But in the moment that this photo happened I couldn’t have imagined what was to come. And in fact, at this moment now, it’s hard for me to imagine how this photo felt. During the past week I’ve asked so many friends (spoiler alert: I make friends) what Cambridge was like at first and they all say it was a whirlwind. They cite Bambi-like awe. And sure, I get it. But when I look at this photo I see a staged kind of fun. Where is my jacket? Did I throw it out of frame, but keep the champagne? Why am I looking off into the distance? I had definitely asked for this photo to be taken. What I’m trying to say is that wonder can often run parallel to loneliness. And while the emotional sum of my first weeks at Cambridge would eventually add up to happiness, this photo was probably not the extraordinary moment it looks like. Sneaking past the porters wasn’t actually that hard. Conversation that afternoon with Oscar lulled. Things were real. And they would only get surreal-er. To Be Continued… #adventuregrams
And Calloway likes the castles. A lot. “But here’s the crazy thing about Cambridge. There’s not just one castle,” she writes. “There’s not even ten castles. Cambridge is a city of castles.”
Oscar’s note was kind but to the point: “I’m sorry I wasn’t here when you woke up, but I have polo practice at 13:00. Would you like to come to John’s formal tonight? Text me. O” John? I thought. Who the hell is John? But I got out of bed anyways and began rifling through my half-packed suitcases for a charger—I didn’t have to check my phone it to know it would be dead. Like winning an Olympic gold medal or owning a lock of James Franco’s hair, listening to Harry Potter audiobooks on repeat all night has a price. And that price is determination. Dedication, Sometimes bitcoin. I dumped the contents of two carry-ons next to my open suitcases and studied the floor. Although I had had over an hour to unpack yesterday between lunch and Oscar’s knock, I had focused on making my dorm-room feel like home rather than actually moving in. Which meant that instead of putting socks away in drawers, I had spent the hour tacking up vintage maps of Greenwich Village, photos of Washington Square Park in the snow, bunting made from mini-British flags. From the waist up my room looked like a cheerful teenage sit-com set, the bedroom of a girl from New York very obviously abroad. From the waist down it looked like the murder scene of a mime. At some point over the summer I had also decided sort of inexplicably that Cambridge students dress like mournful 18th century school-children and had packed only my most boring, most monochrome clothes. I found my charger under a black turtleneck and a multi-volume biography about Cézanne. However, it turned out that I still had neither UK adapter nor cell service. Yesterday had been so skewed by break-up-related anxieties I hadn’t even given much thought to my Precious I mean iPhone. But today I felt much clearer, lighter, eager to check Instagram. I threw on a black turtleneck, black boots, and my mini-skirt from yesterday and set off into town. To Be Continued @din_fru #adventuregrams PS – Meanwhile IRL Oscar and I are at his house in Sweden, meeting the fam. So if you like hearing the story of how we met last fall on Instagram, check out my Facebook page! I post new photos every day! Link is in my bio 👘🐘🍧🎉
She also loves the fine dining and the zillion pieces of cutlery she’s apparently still figuring out how to use.
I say it all the time about appetizers and only appetizers—it’s not the size that counts. It’s the way they’re served in wizardly castles. But before we get any deeper into the oblique Harry Potter references, I feel obligated clarify Cambridge University isn’t Hogwarts. There’s no House Cup, for example, and the university has many more than one Hall and only a few of them Great. Also I’m a lot smarter and better at magic than Hermione, so as you can see the comparison has its flaws. But when the gong rung out and a hundred black-robed students got to their feet, Oscar whispered, “Look at the High Table,” and I half-expected him to point out our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher or to make an observation like “McGonagall’s missing,” which would later be a clue. However, part of growing up is learning that not all school years can have the narrative arch of The Half-Blood Prince. And so while a student read grace in Latin, a group of professors processed solemnly in and sat down at a table surrounded by oil paintings in large gilt frames. Grace ended and we sat down. With military precision, a fleet of waiters in tuxedo-like uniforms swept into the Great Hall and began serving appetizers and white wine because, YES. Fellow Americans, you heard that right: In England, colleges don’t get you in trouble for drinking, THEY PROVIDE THE BOOZE. And not just any old Natty Light, as the menus scattered around the table explained. This was a vintage Pinot Grigio selected by the chef to complement the sweetness of the pickled peaches in tonight’s goat cheese salad as well as the tartness of the homemade raspberry compote—one of three courses being served tonight, each with its own pairing of wine. As I stared at the three forks, two knives, and one spoon in front of me, I leaned over to Oscar and asked, “Is dinner in the cafeteria always like this?” He grinned. “Welcome to Cambridge, Miss Calloway." It wasn't Hogwarts, but it would do. To Be Continued @din_fru #adventuregrams PS – If you like reading my stories about last fall on Instagram, then get ready for what’s happening in real time on Facebook! Link is in my Insta bio, loved ones 🎈
And the halls where that food and wine (yes, wine, as an American she’s thrilled to find out her college actually provides alcohol to students) is served, as well as much of the rest of Cambridge, have her constantly making Harry Potter analogies. To be fair, they do have to wear robes, and there’s an admittedly photoshopped picture of her best friend who kind of looks like a member of the Weasley family.
Of all that Harry, Hermione, and—let’s be real, Ron—Hedwig has done for me, one of the most important was that seeing Oscar in black robes made an effective distraction. “Ohmygod.” I said sitting up bed, mascara-stained Kleenexes fluttering to the floor. I shut my laptop that had been mournful acoustic music on loop. “You’re Draco.” Now before I tell you how Oscar responded: a quick confession. Of the gazillion boys I’ve dated (fine, three), none has ever read Harry Potter. Which is a problem only ALWAYS, but that’s love, you guys. It makes you dizzy, short-of-breath, tired… No, wait. That’s asthma. Love makes you blind. Like a giant torture device that gauges out both your—nope, nope. That’s not it. Love IS blind. Blind like Aragog. (Google it, ex-boyfriends.) The point is that we must neither hold it against Oscar that he replied to my Draco comment with, “I’m Oscar,” nor that he understood my emotional 180 not at all. Without even acknowledging his concerned glances towards my vase full of red wine, I leapt out of bed saying, “Ten minutes and I’ll be ready.” “Lovely,” he replied, snapping his gaze up from the floor. “Do you need to borrow robes or— ” I pointed to the Ryder and Amies bag in the corner.“Black Undergraduate Robes? Check. AWWW YEA, CAMBRIDGE.” Oscar responded to the gang signs I threw at him with a curt bow and said, “Right then. Meet you outside in ten, Miss Calloway. As we walked through castles (!) into something called The Great Hall (!!) and sat down at a long table crowded with more students in black robes (!!!), Oscar slid a piece of crumpled paper into my hands. “Hold on to this. It’s your ticket for tonight.” It was also as close to a letter from Hogwarts as I would ever get and perhaps the only thing the books could never give me. Suddenly a gong rung out and everyone stoop up. To Be Continued @din_fru #adventuregrams PS – If you like reading my stories about last fall on Instagram, then come join the Facebook party! I'm talking vodka shots. Sing-alongs. Swedish Harvard. (Facebook friends you know what I'm talking about😉) Link is in my bio, loved ones🐒🌸🎉
My own mother once said it’s a miracle I wasn’t lured into a paneled van as a child and, quite frankly, I agree. The only thing I love more than free candy is talking to strangers and I’ve never been good at playing hard to get. Not with boys. Not with kidnappers. Not even when it comes to playing tag. But my golden-retriever friendliness was extra apparent the afternoon I met my future best friend, Maria. But now I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start where we left off, surrounded by Cambridge University’s most beautiful people, all of whom clearly belonged in Lecture Room 2 but me. As I tried to stay a mini anxiety attack by taking notes, Professor Massing paced merrily behind the lectern, offering advice that seemed as applicable to Art History as cattle ranching in Texas or how not to survive a tsunami. “Never be afraid to get closer.” “Take zee time to question your instincts.” “I recommend zat first you become fluent een Spanish.” I wrote down everything, complete with his quirky pan-European accent. But savvy Instagram blogger that I am, what I didn’t record with either or pictures or notes was when Professor Massing excused us for lunch and Maria and I found ourselves shuffling side by side to the door and walking into town. However I’ve photo-shopped a dramatic reenactment that turned out, in a way, even more accurate than what happened. Of course IRL we weren’t in ball gowns, but my facial expression and weird grip on Maria’s neck is spot-on in terms of what I restrained myself from doing at the time. Had there been a camera, 100% chance I would’ve looked into like so and announced my intentions like a villain: Maria and I WILL be best friends. Instead I said this to Maria, who laughed. “Let’s,” she said in her proper British accent. “Let’s be best friends.” It was one of the luckiest things that would happen during my first year Cambridge and not just because Maria didn’t own a paneled van. To Be Continued @mariacreech #adventuregrams PS – If you like reading my stories about last fall in Cambridge, check out what's happening today in real time on Facebook! Link is in my Insta bio, loved ones! 🎨🐘🎈
And some of her photos can’t be called anything but magical.
The phrase ‘long story short’—much like super powers and kazoos—is difficult to use responsibly. For example: “Well, Sue and I had breakfast on the patio, went to yoga, and long story short I am no longer welcome in Mexico.” And so as I fast-forward our story from dinner-time to the next morning I’ll try not to narrate too jerkily, although the speed of the story isn’t entirely up to me. You see, there’s a gap in my iPhotos Library that lasts from when the appetizers were served till when I woke up at the crack of 10 AM and is, coincidentally, exactly the size of the hole in my heart. Or as I explained to the waiter who confiscated my iPhone in the Great Hall, no amount of pictures from the Internet will ever bring back the memories I could’ve grammed. But apparently taking photos at formal dinners is “against Cambridge rules” and the waiter had already asked me to stop “four times.” And so the full account of my second non-date with Oscar will have to wait for my book. Which no one has agreed to publish yet, but optimism. By the time dinner was over I was drunk. Not Jersey-Shore-bad-decisions drunk, but on a scale of 1 to actual baby-like wonder, I was a solid “Is it just me or are trees, like, better in England?” I also asked Oscar a lot of the questions that I had felt like too much of a fresher to bring up earlier and got some much needed answers regarding when to wear robes (dinners, ceremonies, never to class) and a crash course on Cambridge slang (“John’s formal” = formal dinner at the college called St John’s). It was these sort of practical night-before-the-first-day-of-school things that we talked about as we wound our way back through dark castles and even darker gardens to our dorm. And as we stepped into the elevator I was lost in thought about what Oscar had just said about checking out library books, so you can imagine how surprised I was, long story short, when he leaned in to kiss me. To Be Continued @din_fru #adventuregrams PS – If you like reading about last fall on Instagram, come see what Oscar and I are up to nowadays on Facebook! Link is in my Insta-bio, loved ones👊🌟✨
Before I say what I’m going to say next, it’s important to remember that on that autumn afternoon with Oscar and the weeping willow, I was still very much in love with Josh. And so when Oscar said, “And that’s where I kissed this American girl…” I didn’t fire back with a flirty quip or laugh it off with the non-deranged human-laughter I reserve for just such occasions. Instead I stopped in the middle of the beautiful, stone, willow-ringed bridge and said flatly, “Oscar. I just broke up with my boyfriend.” He was unphased. “Miss Calloway, if you wanted me to know you were single—” “No,” I said more urgently. “You don’t understand. We, like, JUST broke up. Like, ten hours ago.” For a moment we were both silent. Oscar leaned forward on his elbows against the bridge and looked out at the river and the other bridges beyond. Without turning his head he said simply, slowly, “I’m sorry.” I sighed and leaned against the bridge as well, careful to leave a space between his shoulder and mine. “I still really love him, you know. Josh. After Cambridge I’m going to move back to New York and we’ll be together again, forever.” A group of students in black robes walked by talking animatedly about a professor in a variety of accents. Once it was quiet again Oscar rolled towards me so that his back was facing the river and our shoulders were touching. I stared straight ahead. “Those plans never work,” he said matter-of-factly. “But… I hope for your sake that you get what you want.” “Thank you.” I said primly. “And what I want is Josh.” “Aha!” He cried suddenly, striding away from the bridge with renewed confidence. “That’s what you THINK you want! But you don’t know anything about me yet.” He flashed a smile over his shoulder and gestured towards the riverbank. “Come. Sit. Let’s see how quickly I can change your mind.” To Be Continued @din_fru #adventuregrams PS – Meanwhile IRL… Oscar is building his little sister a raft today! The photos are all on my Facebook page! Link is in my bio, you know the drill 🐘🍍☎️
Calloway is now writing a book about the life of Cambridge students, the Cambridge News reports, and plans to release a collection of essays (with pictures, of course) in 2016.
In the meantime, check out her amazing fairytale life on her Instagram page.
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