In less than a month, I will be moving to Oxford to start a Masters degree in French at Merton College. Five years ago, I thought my world was coming apart because I didn’t get the A-level grades to get into Merton to study French.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this, particularly as I got my final confirmation from Merton on A-level results day this year, which neatly tied up the whole circular nature of this story. A lot of people have told me that getting in now balances out how bad it was not getting in the first time was, but that doesn’t really ring true for me.
I didn’t apply to Merton the second time around to get closure on a five-year-old failure. I did it because it’s centrally located and the French lecturer based there has published on Samuel Beckett, and because it has a high proportion of post-graduate students. When I was choosing my college this time, I initially didn’t want to apply to Merton, because I didn’t want my postgrad to be about “making up for” my undergrad, but it just seemed to be a good fit.
My undergraduate degree doesn’t need to be made up for, and getting into Oxford now doesn’t balance out not getting in last time. Yeah, not getting in sucked, but that shitty day five years ago was more than made up for by the four years I spent as a student of French and Russian at the University of Nottingham. I am so glad I cocked up my Politics exam, because if I had done as well as I was supposed to, I would never have lived in Russia, never have met my best mates, never have whipped my top around my head on the Ocean dancefloor or snuck a bottle of wine into the Savoy Cinema or eaten an Annie’s burger. I wouldn’t change those four years for the world.
I’m excited for my Masters: I’m looking forward to studying a subject I love in further depth at the best languages faculty in the damn world, and to discovering a new city and getting to know new people, but I’m not sure I would be doing one at all if I hadn’t had teachers at Nottingham who made me love my subject and who pushed me to look into a postgraduate degree.
Still though – would my 18-year-old self, the one who was crying her eyes out and drinking far, far too much on results day, have felt better knowing that she would end up there eventually? Probably. But if I could do it all over again, Nottingham would be my first choice, not my back up. I’d probably still have too much to drink though.