I suppose the first question you ask someone when they tell you what they’ve chosen to study at university is “Why?”. Why Physics? Why Astrophysics? For me, it really did begin when I was younger.
When I was around eight or nine years old, I was often on my own at school so I spent a lot of time reading. I was reading at a higher level than my peers and began reading a lot of non-fiction books. My favourite was the Kingfisher Book of Space. It talked about space in history, the Sun and the planets of the Solar System, star birth, evolution and death and about the Universe. I loved this book so much; I must have read it about a hundred times. It still stands on my book shelf in my room.
I loved learning facts about the world. There was a book in my Year 6 class room; the Oxford Children’s Pocket Book of Facts. It had an A-Z list of facts and stats from countries and tribes, to animals and famous historical people. Of course, I loved the parts that were about space and planets. My teacher allowed me to take the book home to read but I ended up forgetting to take it back after I left to go to high school – I still have it now.
I learnt more from my teachers at high school from the astronomy that was included in the curriculum. The high school I attended was more inclined to the expressive arts side of things, like drama, music and art. In Years 8, 9, 10 and 11, I participated in the school drama productions. I really enjoyed taking part in these performances and I made a lot of friends during the rehearsals. I also was given the opportunity to learn to play a music instrument with free lessons and an instrument on loan from the school. I chose to learn the flute and I picked it up really quickly. I really enjoyed painting and drawing at home as much as I did in my art lessons at school so I began to think about a future in Art and Design and my passion for outer space was pushed to the back of my mind for the time being. I also really enjoyed my English classes, especially the creative writing classes. There were some writing competition that went through school and I entered the poem writing ones. I am officially a published poet!
When it got to the point of applying to sixth form college, I oriented my subjects around Art and Design and English Literature from my high school enjoyment of the subjects. There were two colleges to which I applied. One had an all round art course and the other had three different ones which were more focused. I had a knack for maths so the head of the department encouraged me to take maths at A level so I made sure I applied for it as I knew it would become useful. I was accepted by both colleges so I based my decision on which would make the most of my A levels. I found that taking another, different A Level would better aid than two different art courses. So I sent in my acceptance to study Art and Design, English, Maths and (because I was unsure of a fourth) French.
As I was interested in attending University, I was appointed an Aim Higher Mentor, a student from the local university, who researched courses and universities with me and told me about her university experience so far. During our search for art and design courses, we stumbled across an astrophysics course. I immediately became excited about the idea of such a course so after our session I emailed the admissions of my future college about changing A Level French to A Level Physics, which they were happy to do. And, months later, I attended a Business Challenge Summer School at the University of Cambridge where I had the opportunity to speak to one of their admission officers. They told me that I would have a better chance at acceptance if I had a wider knowledge of the sciences. Once I returned I made the biggest decision of my education. It was a decision which would limit my options for my future career and would set me on a path as fixed as a train’s path its tracks. I decided to request to change my beloved art to biology.
Biology was something which I really enjoyed at GCSE level so I was quite happy to study it at A Level. I remember on the day of enrolment at college I was sat across one of the teachers in the crowded main hall discussing my subjects. I asked about changing Art to Biology, but she told me that all biology classes were full and that she wasn’t sure if I would be able to. She sent in the request for me anyways mentioning that some people may change from biology by the time the timetables were published the next day. I went back home thinking that if I was meant to take biology then it would appear on my timetable and if not, I would still be able to follow art if I chose to.
I’ve always had the philosophy that if something is meant to be then it will.
The next day I nervously looked at my timetable and found… biology. I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to start my A Level courses. The next two years consisted of a lot of hard work learning more and feeding my curiosity. I went to loads of talks and discussions about particle physics and astrophysics hosted at universities and at college. I found them extremely interesting and I loved visiting Jodrell Bank observatory and learning all about radio telescopes. At college, there was an enrichment programme were you could either play sports, learn IT skills or debate all things politics. I chose
When it came to applying to University, I made sure I made my passion and interest known in my personal statement. I was accepted and this is the summer between my first and second year.
My first year of University studying Astrophysics has been amazing, I’ve learnt so many interesting things met some brilliant people and I cannot wait for next year!