Monday, 27 September 2010

Back home, now getting ready my application

So finally this week is over. It's actually been quite a rushed week, with lots of public transport (various planes, various trains, some buses and a couple of taxis at least), with lots of movement (see the map at the end of my last post), and also lots of new experiences.
I've been to Scotland, tried Irn Bru, been to the North of England, tried haggis, etc.
But, most importantly, I've visited the four universities I liked the most: Bristol, Durham, St Andrews and Edinburgh (in that order).
I will upload some pictures later this week, with better explanations. But in case somebody doubts, yes, I have made a ranking of them. In my order of preference:
1. Durham: I've fallen in love with Durham, I'm afraid, so everything I'll say about it from now on will be hugely biased.
2. Bristol: The city was a tad big and rather hilly, but the uni was okay and the department of Politics seemed brilliant.
3. St Andrews: The town's okay, the uni is quite good, the IR dept is one of the bests in the UK, but it's very windy and cold, not really big, far from kind of everywhere, a bit expensive and rather posh.
4. Edinburgh: The city is beautiful to do tourism, but I'd never, ever live in Edinburgh, not even if I was paid for it, it's huge, cold, and I found it rather... poor - plus the uni was a really huge one, most buildings not being especially nice, a weak department in Politics and way too expensive to be Scotland, knowing it's a year more than in England.

Even if I don't get free tuition fees, I believe, now more firmly than ever, that England is my place. Scotland has kinda disappointed me. It's beautiful, but I don't think I'd like to live there. It feels "abroad", while England doesn't (if that makes sense at all). Irn Bru and haggis are good, though.
Durham (and I guess all the North East) is rather cheap, believe it or not, a wee cheaper than Barcelona (yes, I have also learned some Scottish words :D). It's not really far away from the South of England (45-minutes-and-£30 flight), it's very near from Scotland (an hour by train), plus you are 20 miles away from one of the biggest cities in England, Newcastle upon Tyne.
I know I may sound a tad crazy wanting so firmly to move up North, but I just liked it so much.
Bristol was really nice, but it's more like a really big city (which I've found out I don't want to live in when at uni). I might manage to live there, but if I can make it, I still prefer a smaller city.
St Andrews felt right, but I'm still not sure.
Edinburgh... I don't even want to speak about it. Seriously, no offence for Edinbourgeois(es), but I didn't feel comfortable enough in the city to live in. Plus I didn't like the uni, and the admission ratio is like 1:40 for my course, so I won't waste one of my choices in a place I know so clearly I don't want to go. 'Edinbra' (yes, I have baptised it that way in my head) will not be my home for the next few years.

So now I have to choose my fifth choice. Bath, Sheffield or York? I'm basically doubting amongst those, though I accept any suggestions (I will send my application on the 8th of October so you may imagine this is quite urgent). My four choices so far are Bristol, Cambridge, Durham and St Andrews (in alphabetical order).

Monday, 20 September 2010

Open days II

I believe this will be the first post I will write only in English. Most people reading my blog are, if not fluent, at least competent in English, whereas this can't be said the other way around. I don't really have much time, so writing it in English will be faster and easier.

I am so nervous! Not because of the Open Days, not because I am actually going to the UK tomorrow (it's the second time in three months, so that's not special, but this time I'm going up North, all the way to Scotland, this has got me amazed as well), not because of all this logistical stuff.
I am nervous because the whole application process is here. Deadlines are closer everyday, and, if all goes according to plan, my application must've been submitted before the 15th (of October, of course). I have to arrange the CSAS form (I guess I've had a LTI, so... besides my parents have not attended uni, any of them, they both have an NVQ but that's about it) for my Cambridge application, I have to prepare myself for the SAQ that Cambridge sends to their applicants (I think the acronym goes like that, sorry if I'm mistaken - it's basically a suplementary application form, specifically for Cambridge and your college). I have to decide which other unis I'm applying to... and here comes this week. I shall be visiting the University of Bristol on Wednesday, when they hold an Open Day; Durham University on Thursday, where I have an appointment with someone at the Politics department; the University of St Andrews on Friday, where I'll be making an alternative visit (half-meeting half-tour open-day-like); and on Saturday I'll be visiting the University of Edinburgh, where an Open Day is also being held.
I also have to revise my PS again and again until I feel that it can't be improved in any way, even knowing that I will fail miserably and receive no offers sending it like that! I have to speak to my referees and arrange everything to be ready asap, as time's flying and I'd like to submit my application by the 8th.

This is the most important decision I've ever taken in my life... so far. So I guess that, up to a certain point, it's kinda logical that I feel nervous and worried about this. Probably, in a year's time, I'll be laughing about this all, writing to you from a hall of residence in some British university... but until that happens, I shall be nervous anyway.
I have already registered to do some exams in January. I won't be going to England on January, I'll be staying closer to Barcelona: in Palma. There's an Edexcel-approved centre there which has accepted me as an external candidate, which is good, and though I still need to confirm a couple of details, they already have my details and will register me to Edexcel. I was initially going to England because Sociology was with AQA and I couldn't sit those exams anywhere outside the UK (including Gibraltar). But, as time's rushing a little bit, I've decided to drop this fourth subject, the least important of all, and focus on the other three (all Edexcel) which are way more important and relevant to my prospective courses.

By the way, I have to feel those details in the UCAS form (listing the qualifications as pending, obviously, but anyway I have to do it). Which do you recommend me to put?
- IGCSE English language / IELTS / CAE.
- A-level Spanish / AS-level Spanish. (Whether to do it or not, being a native speaker may not be really relevant but it's extra UCAS points so it may be worth it.)

I'd sit the IGCSE/A-level exams in June, most probably, and the CAE/IELTS probably in January. I'm scared anyway because Cambridge require a 7.0 in IELTS, which I don't think I can attain, so at that level (and only for Cambridge and St Andrews, the rest of unis have lower requirements) I'd be better off doing the CAE, I guess. I don't know, anyway, so I'd thank you if you advised me something in that matter.

We're a bit short of time, but hopefully in three weeks all this stuff will be over and I'll be able to concentrate on studying to get the best possible grades.

I'm now off to prepare my suitcase... I have to get all the winter clothes ready first, I haven't used them since last April. :D

Have a good week!

Edit: I'll add a map for you to see the planning of the next few days. Enjoy!