The Christmas Holidays

For Part III students, holiday is not an appropriate choice of word perhaps, althought it is wise to schedule in at least a short break from the books.  This is your chance to revise the Michaelmas Term courses.  Not only will this save you work in the (similarly misnamed) Easter Vacation, but as many Lent Term courses will assume that you are confident with material learned in the Michaelmas Term, it is probably essential to your success with the Lent term courses (and your essay) as well.

It is a good time to get to grips with your essay.  Essay setters will generally have no time available after the end of term, as many of them will be interviewing candidates for undergraduate admissions.  However, the research students are usually around for the first couple of weeks.  It is very likely that before you can begin reading the paper for the essay there will be material that you will not yet have met.  Asking research students for an introduction to these ideas is an efficient way of making good any such deficiencies in background.

Different people have different work habbits. Know whether you can work at home or will just be distracted by your family and friends. If you can't work well at home, take a short break there to relax and then come back to study in Cambridge. If you can work at home, make sure you actually do it. Appart from revising courses and reading for your essay, you might also want to start writing your essay fairly early (depending on the subject/dependency on Lent term courses etc.). Having read a lot for your essay doesn't mean you can write it in a few days!

For foreign students who are not planning to go home at all over this break: be warned that this country pretty well shuts down for the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.  The hours of darkness are long and the weather is usually miserable. Trains don't run.  Buses may, but you need to check the timetables.  It is a good idea either to invite yourself to spend time with some of your British colleagues, or else get together with some of the other foreigners and arrange to do something together.

Comments from previous Part III students

"Holidays" by Sebastian Schmittner
This is a really wise piece of advise!
Make sure you do not go home for too long over the Christmas/Easter lecture free time. I made that mistake, assuming I could study, revise and work on the Essay at home as well as in Cambridge. This is just not the case. And you might end up very short of time and facing a really busy and uneasy time after Easter if you do not start writing your Essay and also revising courses early. (Don't try to convince your self that reading a lot before hand will make it possible to write the Essay in a few days).
Having said that, it is, from what I experienced and heard from my friends, quite common to fall into a sort of depressing 24/7 work mode at some point. Make sure you relax enough to keep your spirits up. Pick a hobby or something relaxing to make sure you regularly take a bit of free time. That will make studying much more enjoyable and efficient. (And, hey, there might be even more to life than studies!;) )
All the best for the next generation! We made it, sure you can! ;)

Answer by Barinder Banwait
I agree with much of what you say, especially concerning a "hobby or something" in your second paragraph.
But I must disagree with you concerning not going home for "too long". This is hugely dependent on the individual. After all, how long is "too long"? How long is a piece of string?
I also assumed that I COULD study, revise and work on the Essay at home, and I was certainly able to - Indeed, had I stayed in Cambridge without a break after an intense 8-week lent term, my productivity would have been diddly-squat (or squat-diddly, if you like).
So, my advice about vacations: it is true that you will probably have to work during the vacations. Where you do this is entirely up to you, and is of secondary importance (compared to actually studying).
It is indeed sound advice, that helped me along, to start writing the essay early. I set myself the deadline of having my first draft complete and handed to my supervisor before leaving Cambridge for Easter - which worked well for me. This however is largely dependent upon the choice of essay and individual work habits. (My essay did not require knowledge of any Lent term course, so I was able to get on with it alongside my courses).