Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Personal Statement

A/N: I had applied to university while in sixth form, but dropped out of the UCAS process before exam results came through. I then reapplied the following academic year, realising that my current job kind of sucked, and got into Cambridge.

My Personal Statement 2007

“If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development.” So claimed Aristotle; a statement that perfectly expresses my own relationship with history. Without the knowledge of what has gone before, we have little chance of comprehending what is happening in our world right now, and even, what is likely to pass in the future. It is for this reason that I have been utterly fascinated by the past, ever since I was able to comprehend there was life before I was a part of it! There is just something exciting about making a “new” discovery that explains modern practises; because of this I am keen to continue studying history at university.

I enjoyed my A-level history course and the way in which my other courses overlapped with it as, in my opinion, a multi-disciplinary approach is the only way to get the most out of history. For example whilst studying serfdom in Tsarist Russia it seemed difficult to understand why the vast majority of the Russian population allowed themselves to remain so downtrodden, however my study of sociology helped to explain the situation as a result of it’s focus on how social “norms” are constructed and then kept in place. At the same time my study of history was invaluable to my politics course as it helped me to better understand how the modern political system emerged and why modernisation is still so stubbornly resisted by the many. This approach also encouraged me to move away from trying to explain the past using modern context, something which is inevitably a huge obstacle to making objective judgements in historical study. I look forward to being able to further develop these skills during my time at university.     

Thanks both to a taste of life on campus at a Sutton Trust summer school and to the preparation my A-level courses have provided me, I feel I would be well suited to university life. Individual research for presentations and projects were an integral part of the course, for example in German we were required to research and write an expose on a topic of our choice. (For which I focused on Nazi youth groups, and in particular gender inequality and the differences between the Hitlerjugend and the girl’s association, the BDM). However I’m also experienced at working as part of a team, both in an academic and working environment.     

I also feel that my year away from education will be a benefit to me at university. I chose to take a year out to get a feel of the wider world before commencing with my university course. It will surely increase my self-reliance and independence, whilst also allowing me to gain more work experience. I also hope to be able to do some travelling this year, again adding to my life experience. All this will, no doubt, be an asset to me at university. After university I am not entirely sure what I want to do, however I am interested in teaching as a career, an idea that work placements in schools and involvement with the “buddy reading” scheme (supporting younger students with reading) have helped to reinforce.     

History is also one of my key interests outside of an educational setting. I’m a great enthusiast of social history, especially of the 19th and 20th centuries. I find Robert Opie inspiring for realising that it is the ordinary and the mundane that holds the most value to the historian. WW2 and the history of fashion and the changing social attitudes that surround it are topics of major interest for me and I particularly enjoy attending “living history” events where you can see period costume and really get a feel for life in that era. My other interests include languages (already proficient in German, I have just begun to learn Mandarin), music, socialising with friends, art, and creative writing.     

In conclusion I am looking forward to having the opportunity to widen my historical knowledge, improve my interpretative skills and to getting the most out of my time at university.     

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