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“Under no circumstances mention Dylan Thomas”. This was the very first piece of advice I was given as a sixth form student about to write her personal statement. “And certainly don’t make out you’re a humble country bumpkin”. Selling myself. That was the biggest problem; making myself sound like a worthy and interesting student without lying was harder than walking into Mordor. I had to resist the urge to write “I am Amy Boucher – poet, heavy metal fan, history geek, a vegetarian obsessed with Dylan Thomas, Buddha and Tolkien. I like to bake and read. Please let me come to your university, I will be ever so good. Honest.”
But I didn’t. I kept my eccentricities under wrap and when the time came to click the send button, I was almost a mess. My head was a twisting tumult of questions. Had I really just applied to university? What if they didn’t like me? Had I made the right choices? And finally, did I have realistic expectations of university? Probably not, as to me the word invoked the image of a Hogwarts like building, lots of people doing things that adults would deem ‘unconventional’ or even ‘ outrageous’, Trotsky types, discussions about literature and copious amounts of cold baked beans. But that all changed with a visit to Lancaster University, which brought me back down to a (pleasant) kind of reality, making me realise I wanted to spend the next 3 years there. It just meant getting the grades.
Ever the pessimist, I believed that I was doomed to failure, but after sleepless nights spend studying Berkoff and his role in theatre, an enjoyable philosophy exam in which I wrote 26 pages, a 2000 word essay on Alfred the Great, learning to spell and a comparison between Sylvia Plath’s ‘Daddy’ and Lord Byron’s ‘When We Two parted’ (desperate at the time, brilliant in retrospect), it was over. On the 16th of August I was surprised to see that the fairies had put good grades in the dull, brown envelope. That was the only explanation for it. A perfectly reasonable one.
After the euphoria and the celebratory mead had worn off, next came the realities. I had never really been a fan of reality, and learning to ‘cook’ (or burn, in my case) almost proved too much. It wasn’t like baking. Another scary idea was “budgeting”, which I learnt meant that I couldn’t spend all of my money on ingredients for baking, heavy metal CDs and LOTR Lego sets. I also experienced an unfortunate mishap where the bank believed I was 6 months younger than I actually was, but that’s another story.
But I’ve done it. I have managed to get into a university, even though I am obsessed with Dylan Thomas and can quote LOTR, and in a few weeks time I can call myself a student. As for my expectations, they are less naïve now, and involve less baked beans, but are high.