I’ve been so incredibly busy this past month dealing with university choices, scholarship applications, results and all the things you’d expect any 18/19 year old to be dealing with at this time of the year that I haven’t had the time to update this blog, or even tweet very much, for that matter. In fact, I’m only here writing this right now because I’m suffering from a massive writer’s block and I need to keep writing and typing to shovel this huge block out of my way.
With the question of my results, all I’m saying is that I did disappointingly but well enough to get me into the courses that I want to do. I had to email UCL to get them to reassess my application based on my current grades because I missed my conditions slightly, and they were kind enough to offer me admission, which I’m incredibly grateful for. I suppose I’ll be going to UCL should I get a scholarship, elsewise I wouldn’t be able to afford an education there – my parents only have enough to fund about two years out of three years of my course, and I suppose I can afford to make ends meet by borrowing some money from the bank and working through my uni education, but I’ll still feel awful for spending such an exorbitant sum from my parents’ savings.
If a scholarship doesn’t happen, I might consider going to Manchester or Durham instead, since both universities are relatively cheaper. Or I’m actually considering reading English at a local university – Anthropology’s not offered as a major at the universities here – and taking up a second major/minor in either History or Art History in the second year. I mean, I absolutely love reading and I truly enjoyed studying literature in school, and I could get into writing and journalism, and most importantly, academia with that. Not to mention that I had a tremendously wonderful experience at the English interview I had with one of the local universities last Friday.
The interview was a pretty strange experience because I wasn’t at all nervous or freaking out, when I’m typically horribly tongue-tied at these things (I’ll have to get that settled before I get any scholarship interview offers, if that even happens at all), and I had an awfully fun time discussing George Eliot with the professor I had my interview with – I was reading Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch right before the interview so I had a lot of overwhelming feelings about Eliot as a person and an author bubbling inside me that completely exploded out of me in the interview.
We also had a written test (of sorts) before the interview, in which you have to write an essay on either a piece of literature or film you find to be significant to yourself or society (and why), or an essay analysing one of the two pieces of poetry provided. I chose the first option because my poetry analysis skills were pretty rusty, and I’m not too fond of poetry, sadly. I wrote a pretty ramble-y, half-finished essay on The Goldfinch because that was one of the most recent books I’ve read that I feel is most relevant to society today – I’ve been keeping myself very much in the 19th century or in the mythical lands of Westeros with the other books I’ve been reading recently – and I didn’t think the essay was anything close to being well-written for the above reasons but my interviewer thought otherwise.
It was rather puzzling but amazing how one of the first things I was told during our interview was that I had a really strong and mature writing voice (for an 18 year old, nonetheless) and that I can write well (??!) I have never been told that by anyone, so to be told that by an English professor, of all people, felt like such sweet affirmation. (And quite unfortunately, I live for academic affirmation.) I’m not too sure what the professor’s read because I don’t usually read over my essays before I submit them – I can’t afford the time to since I write rather slowly – but I’m glad he liked the writing of whatever’s possessed me that afternoon. Honestly, most of the time I write like I’m writing now, a mere half-arsed, directionless ramble, but sometimes I end up constructing sentences like this: “More than the ornate depiction of her experiences, it was the sheer ardor with which she punctuated her narratives that truly illustrates her unwavering devotion to her job” that makes me question the legitimacy of my own writing. (That line’s from a piece I’ve been working on for my Vogue Talent Contest submission which I suppose will be elaborated on later, if I remember to do that at all.)
The English interview I had was possibly what swayed me from Anthropology a little (even though I know I’ll be doing a significant bit of reading and writing for an anthro degree as well), since now I’m not too sure which I’d prefer delving into for the next three to four years – and perhaps for the rest of my life since I’m pretty set on becoming an academic. Both areas of study do overlap in some ways, in that they are concerned with humans and in social anthropology, culture, yet what you study can be vastly different. I did consider applying to Oxford initially to do a degree in English (which also means that my entire UCAS application would’ve been tailored to that) but I chose Arch and Anth eventually for the sheer scope it covers and its possible overlaps with art history (which I love, too.) That being said, I’ve been told and even assured by the English professor at my interview that I will likely do really brilliantly in the degree if put in the due effort (obviously), which was why I’ve been extended an offer for the course during, rather than after the interview. Basically I’m stuck in a rather sticky situation right now which I’ve decided to wrestle out of based on whether I’ll receive the necessary scholarship funding to get me through three years at UCL… Not the best way to get out of a sticky situation, I know, but it’s better than flipping a coin.
Aside from university woes, I’ve been working on something else as I’ve mentioned earlier, the Vogue Talent Contest. which is basically an annual competition for young writers, organised by British Vogue. All the finalists will be invited to a lunch with the Vogue editors in London, and the winner will get a thousand pounds in addition to a month’s long paid internship at British Vogue, which may possibly open doors for a writing career in the future. I understand that my chances of winning or even getting shortlisted are slim, since I’m hardly a fashion writer, but ALEXANDRA SCHULMAN WILL BE READING AND JUDGING EVERY SINGLE SUBMISSION – which also goes to say that she’ll be reading my writing. /swoon/
Also, fun factoid: one of the research fellows in the field of social anthropology at UCL, Kaori O’Connor, was a winner of the contest years, or probably decades ago. Oh and she went to Oxford to do a second degree in social anthropology. Basically she represents everything I wish to accomplish in the next 5 years.
In other news of “things and people I’ve been slightly – just slightly – obsessed with”: Sylvia Whitman. She’s the current owner of my favourite bookstore in the world, Shakespeare and Company, an anglophile bookstore on the left bank of the River Seine, right opposite the Notre-Dame, nestled comfortably within the Latin Quarter of Paris. I fondly recall frantically searching for the teeny independent bookstore with my best friend after being given some time to wander within and around the Notre-Dame, and eventually finding it after a kindly old landscape painter and book seller pointed it out to us when we finally decided to attempt to ask for directions with our mad flails and broken French. I don’t remember seeing Sylvia Whitman there, but then again I wouldn’t know because I had no idea who she was or how she looked then, but we spotted our ex-Literature teacher at the bookstore – she was holidaying in Paris then. Being a typical tourist, I bought a copy of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserable, rather than searching out the more exotic finds at the back of the store. I do regret not buying more books from there (although the prices may be a little steep) but they’ve recently launched an online store so you can now seek out all the books you wish you’d have bought in Paris and get them sent to your place. The best part is, all the book customisation services available at their physical store’s also available online, and you can even request for a Parisian postcard or a poem typewritten by one of their writers in residence (also known as the Tumbleweeds) to be included with your book order.
I’ve been meaning to buy a book or two from their website and I’ve finally gotten down to doing it yesterday, after I’ve finished reading the library’s copy of My Life in Middlemarch and realised that I needed to own a copy for myself. They’ve got a rather charming website so after placing my book order, I was surfing around the site and fawning at their resident cat when I found a link to their YouTube, with similarly charming videos of their store that filled me with such inexplicable nostalgia. Anyway, as YouTube links usually go, I was directed and redirected to more similar videos and I found interviews that Sylvia Whitman’s done. SHE’S EVEN DONE AN INTERVIEW WITH CRAIG FERGUSON WHEN HE WAS FILMING HIS SHOW IN PARIS – and if you don’t know, Craig Ferguson’s one of my favourite late night talk show hosts (and I’m so gutted he’s left the show.) Anyway, not only is Sylvia Whitman incredibly gorgeous with her fluffy, whitish-blonde curls and amiable smiles (which was basically how I imagined Eppie in Silas Marner), she’s got such a sweet, demure voice yet she seems incredibly intelligent and well-read (that’s to be expected when you’re basically brought up in a bookstore with travelling writers writing stories where you live and reading them to you. No, I’m definitely not jealous of the practically enchanted, fairytale-like childhood she’s had.) And as an afterthought (I’m just kidding), she went to UCL to read History. Ugh. /dramatically flops on bed, face into pillow/ I want to be her. Her and Kaori O’Connor and Rebecca Mead and all the other eloquent, well-read, intelligent women of the literary sort.
I guess I’ve sufficiently emptied the contents of my brain to be able to focus on finishing up the pieces I’m supposed to be writing for the talent contest, and my tummy’s angrily demanding that I give it the tummy-equivalent of comforting rubs by feeding it, so I shall end my ramble here.