Humans of Brasenose: Ambrose and James


Ambrose Pailing

AmbroseWhen I was looking at different colleges and deciding where to apply, I was really attracted to Brasenose because of its famously friendly nature and its excellent accommodation options. The architecture and brilliant views were an added bonus to an already attractive option! Reading Ancient and Modern History (AMH) I had been thinking about reading just History, because AMH is not offered at many colleges, so I was delighted to see that Brasenose offered it.

I enjoyed my interviews a lot as I felt I was able to explore some interesting topics with my interviewers (now tutors): I remember telling them about understanding history through architecture and the built environment in my home city of Liverpool. I had no gauge of whether I would get in, but I was really grateful for the positive experience I had had. It was also an insight into the concept of tutorials and helped to provide me with a better understanding of Oxford’s system.

Brasenose is a brilliant college with people from all walks of life. Unlike at many other universities, we all live in the same space (think separate halls elsewhere) so social bonding happens much faster and without the lottery of being assigned living options with only a section of the cohort. Both at Oxford and more specifically at Brasenose, there are lots of extra-curricular opportunities. One of my passions is Early Music and I have been awarded a music scholarship in College. This means that Brasenose pays for me to have high level tuition from a specialist, and there are many opportunities to perform in College-based recitals. I have joined the College Choir as well, much to the surprise of those who have heard me sing in the past! I’m very pleased to have ended up at Brasenose, and I could not recommend it more!

Ambrose Pailing, Liverpool - 1st Year Ancient and Modern History

James Forsdyke

JamesIt’s funny how things turn out. I’m not perhaps what people would consider to be your typical Oxford student. The closest to Eton I ever came was a mess. But early into my secondary school education, a comprehensive, in the small, rural market town of Easingwold just outside of York, I set my sights on Oxbridge. I didn’t know quite what I wanted to study, but I knew that I wanted to learn from the best. It has been a strange journey, there are many things that could’ve happened differently, and I feel very lucky that things have come together.

In 2016 my school went into special measures and after a long, drawn out negotiation process it was taken over by Outwood Academy in 2018. When considering GCSE’s the humanities appealed most to me, and so I chose my subjects accordingly. Having cerebral palsy, I had some concerns about the viability of the assessment of my oral exams, in the case that I took any international languages. Stuff the EBaccalaureate I suppose… By the end of my exams I was exhausted, but the results came, and my efforts proved to be well worth the reward.

Politics in particular had long been an interest of mine. At age 14 I had joined the Labour Party, and it wasn’t long before I also became Disability Officer for my party’s constituency, and delegate to the cross-constituency Local Campaign Forum. In sixth form, staying on at Outwood Easingwold, I took English Language, Psychology and Sociology. At this point, studying Law, Psychology, and PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) at university occupied my thoughts at various points but a short time before applying, I had finally settled on PPE.

So here I was, things were coming together. I had my GCSE’s behind me, my A levels just ahead of me and I knew where I wanted to go and what I wanted to study. It’s worth mentioning at this point that the world then lost the plot. I vaguely remember the head of sixth form addressing us near the beginning of Covid. The situation, he said, would be monitored carefully. I remember hearing about it spreading to Europe, and thinking that we were in trouble. Then we heard of the first outbreak in the UK, which was in York. Life changed for us all.

Online we went, which was not always easy when you live in a rural location with an unreliable internet reception, as well as a younger brother also having to organise his study at home. My poor mum was burdened with becoming my scribe during lessons but we adapted and carried on regardless. My teachers and TA’s were fantastic help throughout, and I’m still in contact with many of them. When at last we were allowed to press play on our lives, it unfortunately wasn’t plain sailing. When it came to the online TSA (thinking skills assessment) for PPE, I found myself having to deal with a computer issue, and managed to finish the exam with just a few seconds to spare.

That was by no means the end of it. My grandad, who was always supportive and keen for me to do well, passed away the week before my interviews, after a late cancer diagnosis, delayed by the pandemic. I’ll always regret not having the chance to tell him of the outcome of my interviews.

As well as that, I was ill with flu (remember flu? Just normal flu?) for the second interview, and given that they were online, it just wouldn’t have been the same without some technical gremlins. Overall though, I realised that the interviews had gone well, but was hesitant to say too much to anyone. You can never say for sure.

Upon receiving my offer, my family were delighted, but the reality of life meant that we now had to figure out how I’d manage living on my own. Myself, my brother, Mum and Dad made the four and a half hour journey down to Brasenose the day after I got my A level results, and we were assured that every effort was being made to get things ready. As it turns out I’ve been fine, but of course you don’t know these things beforehand. College have been exceptional, and I’d say for any disabled students considering Oxford, go for it, because the DAS (disability advisory service) are brilliant, and any help can be arranged later. I think it’s a shame that a great many people in different circumstances don’t consider Oxbridge, or might not even consider university simply because of misconceptions as to its viability. The often well intentioned, but destructive lie that ‘forces beyond your control will inevitably prevent you from making it’ is one of my absolute bugbears.

I’m more than half way through my degree now, and the scary thing is that the end seems to be approaching too quickly. I’ve made some brilliant friends, and met some great people from around the world. I’ve been able to learn from people at the forefront of the research and study of their fields, and I’m immensely grateful for the insight that has given me. Your first formal meal in the beautiful candlelight dining hall, or if you’re lucky enough to be awarded a first in prelims, the Scholar’s and Exhibitioner’s formal, the opportunity to meet fantastic people, special guests to the college as well as the incredible people you’ll work alongside day to day, these are all special moments which I hope to remember for a long time to come. Studying at Oxford and being able to get involved with societies like the Oxford Union committee is a rare privilege, and I’d encourage anyone who has any flicker of such ambition to go for it. UCAS lets you apply for five universities, you might as well try if you believe yourself capable. It’s worth it.

James Forsdyke, Easingwold - 2nd Year PPE

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