Did you ever dream of the possibility of going to Oxford before Priestley?
Definitely not! I thought Oxford was entirely out of my reach and I had almost avoided thinking about it before I started at Priestley. I knew it was an amazing academic institution but I couldn’t even imagine writing a suitable personal statement let alone getting to interview!
When and how did you first consider Oxford as an option?
I remember starting Priestley and wanting to get involved in as much as possible, which was definitely what got the ball rolling. Through the College Council, I met Meg Byrom who was the President at the time and just happened to be applying to Cambridge! I was genuinely so surprised to hear how much support Priestley offered her and that they encouraged so many people to apply. Considering I had thought of Oxbridge as “elite”, this was the first time that I had realised it wasn’t out of anyone’s reach. As I got to know more of the staff at Priestley, I realised that the teachers truly wanted all of us to do well and Priestley felt like such a safe environment that I decided to just go for it.
What appealed to you about the French and Arabic degree and where did you discover your love of language?
French has consistently been the subject that I have wanted to dedicate my time and effort towards. For my GCSEs I found myself spending hours revising French and almost forgetting I had other subjects entirely. I knew that language was what I excelled in, and after coming to a Priestley open day and hearing Carol explain the importance of languages I was sold. I was always set on doing a joint honours degree, but until year 12 I hadn’t realised that Arabic would be the best combination for me. I knew French would offer me the glimpse into literature and history that I wanted but Arabic offered a whole new side to history which also perfectly overlapped French history and even complimented my interest in post-colonial theory. I can’t wait to have the opportunity to learn a language from scratch at university whilst learning about Arabic history and culture in depth too!
What have you been involved with at Priestley that you think helped you achieve the offer – eg The Graduate, Oxnet etc
Priestley gave me so many opportunities from day one and I think they were all important for my offer. Everything I took part in boosted my confidence and closed the gap between what I limited myself to and what I could actually achieve. Carol, my French teacher, worked so hard with all of us to try and boost our confidence in year 12, and she was my first port of call when I needed help with both my OxNet and actual Oxford application. I managed to get a place on the OxNet programme and I think my involvement in OxNet is what finally set my ambitions in stone. Applying to Oxford started to become much less intimidating and instead something that I started to enjoy – I would have conversations about bits of reading I had been doing with anyone that would listen and I really started to find my niche in French too. The OxNet administrator, Felix, was one of the most passionate people about languages that I have ever met and I genuinely felt privileged to be able to walk past his office and have a five-minute conversation about anything – even if it was doubts about Oxford.
I have never received as much support as I have done in my time leading up to the Oxford admissions process and although it was stressful and tested my abilities, I had so many people that would help me through. Both Felix and Carol were always available for a call and I think both of them would agree that it wasn’t all smooth sailing – but from such a strong support system and also the time I have spent on my subject I have grown so much as an academic as well as personally. The offer was definitely the icing on the cake and I could not have done it without Priestley’s constant support.
How did the mock interview that you did with Priestley compare to the real thing?
My mock interviews were led by Felix, and they were extremely similar to the real thing. I had had so many conversations about literature that I love with Felix in the past that the transition into the mock and real interviews was not as scary as I was expecting! For my first one, after I got past the nerves, I realised that the interview was exactly what I loved: a conversation with an academic about my subject. I think reading as much around literature that I could get my hands on definitely helped, because I was more prepared for the trickier questions. Priestley made it very clear that they were willing to do as many mock interviews as we needed, and so I asked for another one which was similar. In the real interview, I thought I would be too nervous to express myself, but because of the mock interviews, I ended up having such productive conversations. I remember thinking that even if I didn’t get an offer, I truly loved the experience of speaking to people that were just as interested as me in French and Arabic.
How did you react and what did your family make of you getting the offer?
I got the email from UCAS Track and opened it as quickly as I could so that I didn’t have time to get too excited or nervous. When I opened it and saw that I had an offer, I had to read it about three times just to check! I went and told my mum and I think she was so pleased just because she has seen how hard I have worked to even get through the admissions process. I hadn’t told the rest of my family that I was applying and I definitely don’t think my dad was expecting it so they were all really surprised and happy for me!