English Literature and French Personal Statement
I am a contemplative and dedicated person, widely-read and prepared to work long and hard to fulfil the goals I set for myself, both now and during my English Literature and French degree. My family and I are very close, and they have taught me to have confidence and individuality combined with politeness, humility and generosity. These essential qualities form the basis of my behaviour as a young adult; for example, each Saturday I donate a tenth of the wages I earned that week to various charities such as Save The Children and Action MS, and several customers of the shop in which I work have praised my friendly and helpful manner.
To keep fit I walk with my father and dog in the countryside, and take weekly horse-riding lessons; the latter has built on my respect for nature and the importance of teamwork, since it is impossible to partake in such a potentially dangerous sport unless the riders are able to work with each other and their animals. As well as the physical health and strength gained, it has developed my sense of responsibility, social skills and self-confidence: these benefits of sport add further depth to my character, also aiding me as a student.
English Literature and French interconnect perfectly; they balance lofty, infinite possibilities with effort. To clarify: when studying Hamlet, I contemplate if Ophelia was truly such a shrinking violet, or if her submissiveness and subsequent madness was a defence mechanism to escape the bullying misogyny so present in Elsinore; whether or not her "woe is me" speech is sincerity, sarcasm, or both, ad infinitum. An hour later I may have a French study period for grammar drills, self-imposed vocabulary tests, and re-reading marked essays to see where I have gone wrong.
The next day, the situation may be reversed: analysing specific word choices in William Blake's poetry and unearthing the subterfuge of lust in Andre Gide's "La symphonie pastorale". Both subjects are a double-edged sword, as in reading Sartre's "Huis clos": as well as simple enjoyment and new vocabulary, I wondered just what he meant in creating his presentation of hell. The aforementioned play also clarified for me the concept of formal and informal second-person pronouns, illustrated by the three protagonists' relationships.
"Talk for your life, Danny boy. Tell 'em a story." So thought Dan Goldberg to himself at the climax of Philip Pullman's "The Tiger in the Well", voicing in beautifully simple words what has become a life philosophy. In the novel, the wily Goldberg prevents a riot against his fellow Jewish immigrants in Victorian London by standing between two furious mobs and summarising the dangerous situation in a succinct tale (complete with bawdy jokes), forcing the crowds to acknowledge the other side's humanity. In using fiction as a vehicle for the truth, he saves countless lives; the power of language and stories is immense.
This scene has been my favourite in all of literature since I first read it, and on each perusal of the tale it fascinates me still more. Although Goldberg is respected and formidably intelligent, he is neither arrogant nor pretentious, feeling his education is wasted if he does not use it to help others. I seriously doubt I will ever have the skill or opportunity to avert mass injury: nevertheless, the privilege I have of working for a degree will come to nothing if I keep such knowledge to myself. Once I have completed my undergraduate course in English Literature and French, I will do a Postgraduate Certificate in Education then find a job as a secondary school teacher (I will receive my first taste of this in my upcoming work experience), preferably in a poorer area. There I hope to share the passion I feel for my chosen field with my students, and in turn nourish that passion in them.
This personal statement was written by clairish for application in 2000.
I had to write this very quickly to meet the deadline for Oxford applications, having suddenly overcome my nervousness about applying there, but I'm proud of it. Throughout I tried to emphasise my love for my chosen subjects and the work needed to study them, and that I'm not just going to university for the sake of it or to get a better-paid job.