Student Perspective: Giselle

Giselle is from Wye in Kent, she studied for A Levels in German, English Literature, History and completed the Extended Project Qualification. She is studying Classics from 2018 to 2022.

When you were at school, did you know anyone else applying to Oxford or Cambridge?

Yes - about 12 others in my year at school applied to Oxbridge. A similar number applied the year before me, and slightly fewer in the years before that.

What attracted you to your course?

The breadth of the course really appealed to me - not only does it cover the chronological scope of the Classical world, but we also study a wide range of disciplines - languages (Latin and Greek), ancient history, ancient literature, ancient philosophy, and classical linguistics. As well as lectures and supervisions, we have lots of language classes. I thought it would be the perfect way to harness my multi-disciplinary interests. Also, I'd not had any exposure to classics at my state school, but was really intrigued by my relevant wider reading, and it was great to find a university course tailored to others like me - I had a year of learning Latin to A-Level standard, before merging with incoming classicists doing the more popular three-year degree.

What is King's Like?

In short - amazing! I love the grounds and the architecture, the diversity of students, the blend of old traditions and innovation, the chapel, the location... and so much more!

Were there things that you were worried about before you arrived (socially)?

I was really scared about fitting in and making friends! I grew up in quite a remote area, so living in a town, and in a popular accommodation block, seemed rather daunting. I remember going into the porters' lodge on the day I arrived. One of the porters asked why I looked so scared, and that I had nothing to worry about - and he was right! I made friends at the ice breaker that evening who I have remained close to ever since. Everyone is so friendly and, although it sounds cliche, I felt at home in no time.

What about the academic aspects?

I was really worried about how to actually write essays. I knew that I'd be studying lots of disciplines I'd never been exposed to (like classical art and archaeology) and I assumed that everyone else what have a much better idea of what they were doing. However, I found that there is no 'correct' way to write essays, that it is more about developing your ideas.

What advice do you have for people thinking of applying for Classics?

I would absolutely go for it, especially if you're applying for prelim classics like I did! I thought that my interviewers wouldn't take me seriously, because I hadn't studied any classical subjects at school, and only really became interested in Latin the summer before I applied. However, I realised that it's not about how much you've studied, but how much you're enthused by your wider reading, and how well you know from it that this course is for you.

What advice would you give about the interview?

Because my interviews and assessments spanned two days, I stayed the night at King's. Instead of treating it all as a test, I thought of it as a fun trip to a really pretty place, and as a privilege to discuss my academic interests with world-leading experts. I tried to soak up the atmosphere of the college, and, in the interviews themselves, to explain my thinking in detail, even if I was unsure of how to answer, so the interviewers could understand how my reasoning worked.

Where do you do your work?

I try to vary where I study. If I have faculty classes in the morning and afternoon, I study in the college library in-between. I try and work in the college library at least once a week, and I also work in my room frequently. Last term, I tried to study in as many faculty libraries as possible, which was a good way of seeing other departments!

What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?

I really love music, and am a choral scholar in King's Voices, the college's mixed-voice choir. We sing evensong once a week in college, which is always an amazing experience. In my first two years here, I also played violin in the university orchestra, and in other concerts on an ad-hoc basis. I really enjoy running, and am currently training for the Cambridge half marathon - there are some very scenic places to run (or walk) to around Cambridge. I also enjoy attending events in the college art rooms, such as life drawing, and, of course, spending time with my friends in college.

Where in college do you live this year?

This year, I am living on the first floor of Market Hostel which, as the name suggests, overlooks the market square! I share facilities with seven others, including a nice big kitchen. The common room and laundry facilities are also nearby, and it's a very convenient location overall - close to the shops, but still very near college.

What do you do during vacations?

My vacations have varied quite a lot. I have spent time working, taking driving lessons (and passing my practical test, yay!), doing work experience with my local council, and taking enough time to relax. I was lucky enough to go interrailing before the pandemic hit. I also try to meet friends, both from home and college.

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