Classics Personal Statement

The study of languages and their related cultures provides an excellent vista through which to understand humanity.

From the literary to the political, the historical to the cultural, I appreciate the various components of exploring linguistic traditions. As a result, I studied Latin for two years, which culminated in an A grade at A2 Level, with no previous background.

Engaging with the Arabic language will strengthen my linguistic capability and uncover for me a whole new world, which possessed significant connection with the ancient Graeco-Roman legacy which I have explored.

Studying history, I discovered it is considerably more vast than mere narrative. I have seen how certain incidents were causative of both continuity and change. Reading Murphy's 'The Arab Revolt', I was amazed at how the Ottoman Empire's decline and the Arab Revolt resulted from a local desire for self-determination as well as wider geopolitical factors.

Wilson's biography of T.E. Lawrence provided a fascinating revisionist account, portraying him as a pawn of both Arab freedom and British colonialism, powerfully reassessing his image as an autonomous hero. Most recently, I have found reading the first volume of Hodgson's 'The Venture of Islam' at once intellectually challenging and stimulating.

Exploring the Russian Revolution brought to my attention remarkable commonalities with current events in the Arab world. In the course of my study, I hope to examine how premodern and modern societies have developed political systems, especially in terms of creating representative forms of government.

From city-states and Bedouin tribal allegiance to modern dictatorships, societies' political arrangements are a gateway to understanding them.

As a blogger, I am curious about the impact of technology on the Arab world. The question of whether social media has bridged or divided the East and the West is one I find to be of considerable interest.

In my experience, literature - ancient or modern - gives us important insights into cultures. In Ovid's works, I learned about love as consuming (a key component of pre-Islamic Arab poetry) and in the 'Aeneid,' of the archetypal warrior.

In Cicero's 'In Verrem' I inferred the rightful code for a Roman governor and discovered in Sallust's writing the audacity of a conspiratorial few. I appreciated Shelley's unique employment of the Romanticism of the East with elements of the Gothic in her 'Frankenstein'. My ability to rapidly assimilate information will ensure my successful academic development and the honing of my research abilities.

My extracurricular involvement proves my wider engagement: through my intellectual curiosity, I was invited to contribute to a university research paper. Inspired by Roman rhetoric, I set up and ran my school's debating society and represented the school as a barrister in a national competition.

In this connection, I also hope to explore the rich Arab rhetorical tradition, especially through the linguistic analysis of rhetorical modes.

Currently, I have enrolled with an Arabic institute to gain preparedness for my university study. Upon gaining sufficient fluency, I hope to then strengthen my spoken Arabic through conversation with more advanced speakers.

Studying Arabic will unlock for me a significant civilisation in world history, politics, science and the arts and one that has intrigued Orientalists for centuries. Arabic has contributed to the Western tradition, often in imperceptible ways.

For example, a number of works in the Western canon that were lost in their original were rediscovered preserved in Arabic translation. The exploration of the interaction between different peoples and times is a facet of historical inquiry that I enjoy.

A university degree course in this area would equip me with the skills and knowledge to utilise my understanding of the classical Western world in a wider global, historical context to facilitate my pursuit of postgraduate studies.

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Author's Comments

After completing A-Levels at the Sixth Form of a grammar school, I took a gap year.

I reapplied with this personal statement to a number of universities for different (but not entirely dissimilar) subjects. They were:

1. Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (focusing on Arabic) at University of Cambridge (King's College);

2. Arabic and History at the University of Edinburgh;

3. Classics at Durham;

4. Classics at King's College, London, and;

5. Classics at UCL (University College London).

Since I'd already finished school, I already had my grades at the time of applying. I was awarded unconditional offers at all these institutions. In the end, I opted for Cambridge.

In an interesting turn of events and with indecision so typical of youth, two Mondays before the start of my first term at Cambridge, I emailed them to ask if I could change to History. I was invited to come to Cambridge for two interviews - one with the Director of Studies for History and a History research fellow; the other with the Senior Tutor of King's College - to discuss why I wanted to change. Just like when I first applied to the College, I was asked to an essay from my schooldays: it was one I'd written as History homework during Year 13 with the title, 'Assess the view that the condition of the peasantry was transformed in the period 1855-1964'. A thoroughly interesting topic which provided much engaging discussion.

(NB. To those institutions where I applied for Classics, I also sent them an alternative, more Classics-related personal statement via email, which some universities make provision for. I'll upload this too. If you care to find it, it begins, 'I am fascinated by Classics because by looking to the past, we find our place in the world...'.)

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