As you might have seen on my twitter feed last week, this time next month I will be studying at the University of East Anglia. As you might have also seen, I have already become some sort of sensation in Norwich:
This time last year, I was quite close to having a breakdown over the agonising decision of which university to apply for. In retrospect, I do think there was a lot more I could have done to educate my eventual choices, like actually going to an open day. My AS level grades did give me a lot of options to play with, but it was really hard for me to pin down exactly what I wanted to spend three years of university doing. Sure, I’d also applied to a couple of acting schools (RADA, LAMDA), but they very rarely accept students straight out of sixth form. In my own egotistical head, I think I’d be comfortable doing any of 4 or 5 subjects at university. Honestly, I think I’m good enough at (and certainly enjoy) history, drama, english and archaeology to have done pretty damn well at uni.
The main problem here was that, through the UK University application service – UCAS – you could only write one 4000 character personal statement for all 5 choices. This ultimately detered me from applying for archaeology, while I chose against studying history formally at university after an open day visit (I did go to one!) at the university of Oxford, when I decided I didn’t really “fit in” but still decided to apply (for English). As I submitted all of my application forms in October 2015, my five choices read:
- Oxford to do English
2. UEA to do Literature and Drama
3. Royal Holloway London to do English
4. King’s College London to do English
5. Southampton to do English
The Oxford application went wrong almost immediately. I nearly missed out on sitting the English aptitude test, while the sample essay I was asked to submit had been graded a B by my teacher (I would elaborate on this, but I’m not going to). However, elsewhere the news was exceedingly good. I received an AAA offer from King’s College London only a few weeks after finishing UCAS, while I also got offers from Royal Holloway and Southampton on the same day in October half term. By November I was no longer under consideration at Oxford (I blu-tacked the rejection letter to my bedroom door),though I did have an applicants/audition day booked for January at UEA. For this I was asked to prepare two monologues – one modern of my choosing (I went for a piece from Five Kinds of Silence; a play I had done as part of year 12 drama) and a Shakespearean monologue from a pre-decided list.
To be honest, I’m still a little surprised at the kind of monologues the panel had selected. Out of the seven, only three were male (which is understandable considering how many girls do drama at university). What was more intriguing were the characters they’d selected. None of them were what I’d class as A list, and all three would usually be played by middle-aged actors rather than 17 or 18 year olds. But still, one would have to make do, so I selected a speech from The Winter’s Tale (as I was seeing Kenneth Branagh in the part during December), and began to prepare…
The applicant day in the middle of January was truly brilliant, and it was that that ultimately made me choose UEA over King’s College. My dad, despite living in Dorset for twenty years, has never got round to leaving his Norwich-based optician, so made an excuse to visit him while I went alone. Though I didn’t learn much about the English side of the course, I barraged our tour guides (drama students) about the extra-curricular opportunities at UEA. The University has 2 drama groups: Minotaur theatre, which is exclusive to Drama students, and Drama Soc (which is much more inclusive). As you can probably guess, I’m planning to be a major part of both.
One of the best things I learnt during the tour was how UEA has a starring role in the biggest cinematic franchise of all time. The Sainsbury centre, which is a futuristic-looking art gallery on campus, doubles as the new Avengers facility in Age of Ultron, Ant-man and presumably some of the upcoming films. Whether or not this means Robert Downey Jr will come visiting for tea and biscuits I’m not sure, but it’s pretty cool isn’t it!
In the afternoon, I was one of the first (literally the first) to audition with one of the course tutors. We spoke over my personal statement at first, and I got to brag about all the drama stuff I’ve done, then I got up and performed. A week later and my letter of unconditional acceptance came through, which I immediately blu-tacked over the rejection from Oxford.
Don’t get me wrong though, it was still far from a done deal. When I visited King’s College in March, I was really impressed (even though I didn’t want to be). In the end, however, I decided that I wanted to study drama at Uni, which was not a subject offered by KCL.
As is mentioned in the Eastern Daily Press article, I do have a lot of family near Norwich. My Grandma lives on a disused farm about twenty minutes away, while my aunt and uncle work in the city itself. This means I have spent a fair amount of my holidays in Norfolk. The first time I saw Skyfall, for instance, was at the Vue in Norwich, while the first time I watched Man Utd play (live) was when Ryan Giggs scored a 90th minute winner at Carrow Road (best birthday I’ve ever had). I know my way around most of the sites of Norfolk, whether it be the market, the waffle house or the beehive (the much acclaimed bookshop), while I also like Alan Partridge. I’m very much hoping that the match was made in heaven, especially if I decided to stay with my Grandma for my second and third years.
The only problem that I do see, which is utterly unavoidable, is the certainty that the drama students tend to enjoy partying. University is famous for its drinking games, but that only makes me worried. You see, I don’t like alcohol – genuinely can’t stand it. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much, based on some of the embarrassing situations my friends have gotten themselves into, but I am certainly not a clubber.
Wish me luck!