In the previous post, I wrote about my journey of learning languages up until the end of my GCSEs. This post will carry on from there…
On the first day of Year 12, we were told that we knew nothing about Spanish and that we basically had to learn it all over again. My two teachers were right and that year saw an exponential growth in my Spanish and in the end I got an A in my AS. It was during the Easter holiday of Year 12 that I went abroad to Lourdes in France with the school to volunteer on the HCPT pilgrimage. During this week, I had a number of chances to use my Spanish. I loved the feeling I had when I used this language and realised that I had to continue my study of the language post sixth form. Thus, when I went home, I started to research my options. I settled on a degree in languages because it allowed me to not only continue my study of the language and to study abroad, but also to learn about the cultures of the Hispanic world which is a huge fascination of mine. So, I decided degree level study was the right option for me. However, I decided that I wanted to study two languages as this appeared to be the most employable option. It is important to note that I had started to listen to French music at this time and I realised how foolish I was thinking that French was just for primary school pupils. So, I had once again took to French. Despite this, I decided to study Italian ab initio at university. This was quite simply due to the spark ignited in me by the cultural differences between the UK and Italy at the age of 10.
The next step was to research universities. With the help of my parents, driving me up and down the country and my form tutor and some other members of staff at the school I had decided on the 5 I would apply to. Enter, Mrs S. This lady was officially in charge of UCAS applications but she was so much more than that. She was a guidance councillor, a shoulder to cry on, a motivator and quite simply didn’t have a bad bone in her body. It is rare to find someone so kind natured, who helps you learn about yourself constantly, amongst the herds of people who have an ulterior motive. She helped me apply to Oxford, and when I was rejected, unlike everyone else, joined in with me by saying who needs them. I immediately put my rejection onto her wall amongst everyone else’s offers to help show this point. She allowed me to realise that I had so many more options and that at that point in my life I had greater fish to fry. This amazing person always allowed you to have a glimmer of hope even if the rest of the world didn’t want you to and when she left the school I don’t think I’ve ever seen a community so effected. So, with her help, I wrote my personal statement and received 4 offers off Leeds, Warwick, UCL and Exeter. Once again, thanks to the time spent in her office, I came to a conclusion as to my firm and insurance universities. She allowed me to do this merely by allowing me to talk and her listening. I chose Exeter and UCL as a result of these conversations.
During Year 13, I also started to learn Italian at the Brasshouse Language Centre in Birmingham and had an amazing Italian tutor and class. There was always a motivating atmosphere once you walked in the room. Once again, learning a language was fun. I also think the fact that it was beginners really added to this element of fun and comradery. I finished the year with an entry level qualification in Italian. I was on cloud nine. Everything seemed to be going right. I was doing well at school, my Spanish speaking exams went incredibly well and I had finished an Italian course. However, results day brought me crashing down to earth for a few hours of self-pity due to getting BCC and being rejected from Exeter and UCL. However, after speaking logistics with the assistant head and the head of RE, I remembered what Mrs S would say to me to remember that it was merely a bump in the road and that I should at least try clearing. (She would claim that this was all me but honestly without coming across her and her perspective on life I would probably be sat at home still crying to this day). I eventually got a place at Cardiff University to study BA Italian and Spanish and I can honestly say that I am loving it and that I have made so many friends. It almost makes my self pity on results day even more stupid. Additionally, in a twist of fate, I picked up French with the Languages for All programme and am slowly progressing with it and hope to be fluent (whatever that means) in the language one day. Finally, I finished my first year at university with a first in both Spanish and Italian, and am now going into second year.
Sometimes I forget how unlikely it is that I am here today studying languages and that without a number of many specific events I probably wouldn’t have been able to learn Spanish let alone Italian most likely until after university, by which point I probably wouldn’t have bothered. So, I thank everyone mentioned in this post with my whole heart as without their input I probably wouldn’t be here today at Cardiff writing this.