Geography Personal Statement Example (Oxbridge)

Geography's interdisciplinary nature gives rise to endless applications, bringing economic, cultural, and social points of discussion; hence I adore the subject.

The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami particularly interests me. Visiting Thailand 18 years on, I witnessed stark evidence of long-term impacts. The tsunami's tragedy is depicted in 'The Impossible', where I was struck by the underrepresentation of Thai locals, reaffirming my opinion that films too often reinforce the East-West dichotomy. Viewing through a geographer's lens, I questioned how an average audience would perceive it. Reading Kate William's essay on neo-colonialism within the film helped me explore this. I agreed with her assertion that omitting Thailand's socio-economic inequality encourages audience ignorance, as the film's failure to showcase local deprivation implied that with funding from Western aid, Thailand would fully recover. This belief is fundamentally flawed. Daniel Jean-Louis' TEDTalk, using Haiti as an example, further supports the criticism, explaining how aid can force reliance, preventing development and resilience. The media must recognise their influence on socio-economic and environmental beliefs and thus policies; we, as geographers, must learn the importance of utilising the media to achieve our goals and affect policies.

Omission in media, as highlighted in 'Cinema and Landscape', a composition of academic essays, is a tool which significantly influences audience perceptions. I find its value is often overlooked; if used correctly, it can shape our social and environmental landscapes. ‘The Fifth Element’ achieves this excellently. Limiting New York’s futuristic depiction to focus on pollution and crime, it confronts and warns citizens of the city’s current social and environmental state, raising public awareness. With solid stakeholder motivation, awareness can be the impetus for physical changes supported by geographers' insights.

Although the importance of local change shouldn't be underestimated, I view the scale of the media's influence on culture as more significant. 'Black Panther', set in the imagined country of Wakanda, depicts an uncolonised, highly developed African nation. It shattered the impoverished and primitive illustration of Africa in books such as the 'Tarzan' series, evoking pride within African culture. This is critical, as even The National Geographic can exacerbate the normalised, degrading picture of Africa through articles including 'Historic Drought Looms'. Omitting to acknowledge generalisation and disparity creates personalisation bias, used by the media and NGOs during the 2014 Ebola outbreak to reinforce the myth that all Africans need aid, thus increasing donations from Western countries. This tactic is irrefutably successful. Due to favourable physical geography enabling the West to develop first, as Tim Marshall explains in 'Prisoners of Geography', the West feels a duty to 'save' the world by encouraging others' development yet equally restricts through climate change sanctions and self-serving economic control. A geographer's view is vital in informing policy decisions and mitigating biased media-painted perceptions.

As part of the Student Leadership Team, I ran creative primary school workshops on the UN's Goal 15 - 'Life On Land' - during a World Class School Symposium. Beyond researching glacial retreat, land degradation and water pollution, I diligently led engaging discussions on how the UN could action innovative global policies. I further exhibit commitment with my choir during high-pressure soundtrack recordings and performances to eminent audiences, including King Charles III and Sir David Attenborough.

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Author's Comments

Universities applied to:
Cambridge - interview invitation
LSE - Offer
UCL - Offer
Kings - Offer
Queen Mary - Offer

I'm really passionate about film (as you can tell) so I decided to weave my two passions together in my personal statement. At the time I thought it might be hit or miss as it wasn't solely focused on geo - either they'd love it or hate it (especially Cambridge). But clearly, I did something right :) Ps. I applied to Clare College at Cambridge.


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