Oxford, Zero to Hero

Today’s assignment: write the post that was on your mind when you decided to start a blog

I think I already fulfilled this assignment when I published my first post, but if we go back to before I was rejected, I have plenty to say about my interviews.

I applied to do ‘Law with Spanish law’ at Oxford University at Magdalen (apparently pronounced Mau-da-lin).  Having loved ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe’ as a child and hearing Magdalen  was where CS Lewis was converted to Christianity, I, therefore, concluded it was the college he’d attended, and consequently the one I’d like to attend too. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after I’d sent in my application that I realised he’d actually attended University College, Univ, which spookily was the college that gave me an interview.

At the tender age of 17 I’d never been on a ‘proper’ train with my own luggage, and no parent to carry it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d ridden the Metro in Newcastle on my own, but never been further than a few miles and I was always completely luggage free. My Dad dropped me off at the station on Tuesday 10th December and we waited near the sign that said ‘Carriage C will stop here’. Carriage C did not stop there, so we had to sprint down a good sixth of the platform so I could reach and board the train at Carriage C before it pulled away. This experience was however more success than the time I’d gone from London to Oxford on a ticket that had a seat reservation for Carriage F, with the train carriage letters ending at E.

Since it was the first time I’d been on a train journey for a considerable length of time my Dad had booked me and appropriate seat, on the aisle, with a table, and front facing. Anyone who is a frequent train rider will know these seats are few and far between; about one to two per carriage. Carriage C on that train was empty with the exception of one man, a man who just so happened to be sitting in the only front-facing-table-aisle seat in the entire carriage… It’s just that I’m an unlucky person.

I arrived in Oxford at about 5:00pm and vividly remember the horrible task of dragging my suitcase through the cobbled streets, dark, cold and fearing slightly for my life. I hadn’t even made it out of the train station when upon trying to consult my map I ‘propped up’ my suitcase and it toppled over, ungracefully and loudly in front of me. Thank goodness a middle-aged woman stopped to help me and give my direction towards the main high street…

I’m sure her heart was in the right place, but the directions she gave me were not correct. When I reached the cross road she’d directed me to and took the left she’d insisted upon, I realised I was completely lost and couldn’t find anything recognisable the map my Dad had given me. I’m a proud person, and having gone about 100 meters up the road, it dawned on me how unnatural a U-turn would look at a point like this, so I just carried on going. Besides, at this point I didn’t actually know if she was wrong or not, her advice was my best bet.

So, on the cold December evening, I think I finally understood how Dory from ‘Finding Nemo’ must find herself throughout that film. To a passer-by I must have appeared utterly ridiculous: pulling my suitcase a few meters, consulting a map for at most ten seconds, (so I’d appear to be confirming the decision to move forward) and then moving off when it seemed appropriate to do so. What else was I supposed to do? When it dawned on me that the directions I’d received could have been completely wrong, I asked another lady who then successfully directed me towards the high-street.

As I was now more conscious  of travelling in the wrong direction I nearly found Univ three times; each of my failed attempts included just missing the enormous sign that read ‘Welcome to Univ’(The big blue banner in the picture):
Welcom to UnivIt was pretty big ,but each time I’d missed it I’d convinced myself  that I must have been going too far down the road and kept turning round just before the sign was in view; a great start.

When I finally made it inside I received my room key and made my way up with one of the second years who were ‘team helpers’ that were showing us around the college. They must have been taking it in turns over which member would take the next interview because when I entered a petite girl rose straight away and said she’d lead me to my room.

You know when you’re packing for a holiday and you pack just the right amount of things so the suitcases will close and then instantly regret it when heaving it around? You know you didn’t need all those things, but they fit in, so you packed them all. Well, although this poor girl had promised me she’d carried lots of heavy cases before, I couldn’t help but feel guilty watching her haul it up those three flights of stairs, and into my room. She’d definitely leave the next few candidates to some other member of the team. She could barely catch her breath when we reached the top, unsurprisingly she didn’t say much to me, handed me a booklet and shut the door behind her. It had been a long journey of about 6 hours on the train, and I still had 30 minutes before tea (that’s dinner or evening meal to most people). It felt good to be alone.

Enter Tasha, my roommate as quite as a mouse. She tappeded me lightly on the shoulder and exclaimed a welcoming hello. I’ll apologise to her now for the look of horror that must have broken out across my face. I had assumed that since it was Oxford, the common courtesy would be that we each received our own rooms, or would be notified that this was not the case. I nearly died of fright.

When I told my family that I had a roommate they were as horrified as I, but I’d like to set a few things straight before I go on…
Tasha, you completed my Oxford experience.
Had it not been for you I don’t think I would have coped with my three days there. You were in the same boat as me, just more qualified and with a more posh accent. Even our hairs were of similar natural colours! We had such a great time together, I was nice to think everyone else thought we’d known each other for years and was so jealous that they didn’t have a roommate relationship like ours. Thank you for all your lovely comments since then, and I wish you all the best!

I started writing this blog because I was disappointed, even embarrassed at having missed the opportunity to go to Oxford and through the reflection of my time there and by writing this out now, I’m starting to come to terms with the phrase ‘everything happens for a reason’. On reflection, and when I’m not so highly emotion, it’s becoming more apparent that Oxford and I never did quite fit together but I’m sure that waking up the mentors that evening to ask them if they had any spare toothbrushes certainly didn’t score me any brownie points!

Oxford, Reject

So did you get in…?

The 8th of January, 2014 had been a set date in my diary for quite some time; the day I’d receive the final decision about my place at Oxford University.

I’d like to say the letter I received was cold and heartless; but it would be a lie. Had I the unfortunate task of having to draft one, to hand out to candidates such as myself, I don’t think I could have done a better job. At least the cliché phrase of ‘competition being extremely strong’ was spared till the third paragraph and there was an actual signature at the bottom (even if it was a little scruffy).

It did actually shock me that I’d even received the opportunity to have an interview.  I’d tried very hard with my personal statement, tailoring it to Oxford’s course. I did however fail to mention, that from the age of five, I had always wanted to be an Air Hostess. And that unfortunately, this dream died the death when I realised that the staff (on short haul flights) never actually got off when it reached its destination, and that if they did then they would have nowhere to stay and never be able to make it back home.

There were no three days quite like my experience in Oxford. I suppose it’s comparable to the ‘Trial Run’ experienced by players of ‘The Cube’ prior to making the big decision as to whether they want to play the game or not. You’d say no to such a scenario, right? Honestly, I didn’t want to miss it for the world. But at Oxford it’s not the player who gets to decide, you’re told whether you can play the game or not, based on your trial run and history.

During my visit I was overwhelmed by the private school candidates that were competing for places against me. Not only by the fact that I seemed to be the only individual that had never experienced a public school at some stage in their life, but also because of their achievements. I felt physically sick listening to them talk about everything they’d done; from Gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards to musical grades, in addition to countless previously attained AS levels and A levels stuffed under their belt.

I live in the North-East and have attended state schools all of my life.  I have 8A* GCSEs and 3As. I loved my secondary school and if it had a sixth form attached I’d never have left, even though it was placed in the failing category by Ofsted, when I was in Year 11. I have achieved 4 AS levels at grade A and I’m currently studying for 3 A-levels.

I knew in my heart that Oxford and I would never properly mix. I did my best, which is really all I could do. I don’t want to set myself some crazy goal whilst in a jealous and upset rage. I want to make myself proud of what I do every day.

So after crying my eyes out, like the mature and established 17 year old I pride myself on being, I realised that I’d always known the Oxford dream was a long shot. I always said tears would be shed today, regardless of the outcome and I am a girl who likes to keep her word. After a huge hug from my mum, words of wisdom from my dad and a long deep reflection in the bath, I’m ready to face the world again!

I know that all my friends, family and teachers are very proud of me for making it as far as I did. Honestly, I think there are some people who deserved to be interviewed far more than I did.

Congratulations to everyone who made it into the Oxford cohort today and commiserations to everyone who feels like I do right now!

Through all of this, I am acutely aware that many other leading universities will offer me amazing opportunities and I dare say I always slightly feared what the Oxford social life would include. But, above all of this, as many people will say, everything happens for a reason and Oxford just isn’t the University for me.

Thanks to everyone for their huge amounts of support; I couldn’t have made it to my interview without you.

Tomorrow is going to be a hard day for telling people, but I know I’m stronger now, due to the closure received, now I’ve become an ‘Oxford reject’.