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Cambridge, Durham, UCL or Exeter?

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    • Thread Starter

    Hi all,

    I know there are quite a few similar threads on here, but my situation is quite unique and I really need specific advice and unbiassed opinions! This is going to be slightly off topic, and I'd probably be better off posting this thread in the disabled students' forum or the English forum, but I do have some relevant questions, and I'm actually more comfortable sharing this with fellow mature students.For those who have never "met" me, I've been blind since birth and am from an EU country. I have a long and complicated story which I've been sharing around TSRSo I'm 21 years old, blind and from the EU, but I'm trilingual, so English isn't really a "foreign" language to me. It's been my dream (rather, my aim) to study English at a top UK university (ideally Oxbridge - originally I was thinking of applying to Oxford because their course also has a language component) for as long as I can remember. Needless to say, I'm well-read and have a lifelong passion for literature.I finished high school two years ago with top grades in all my subjects. I was going to apply straight to a UK university, but I didn't have an A-level (or equivalent) in English literature. Many people kept telling me "not to be silly", that unies know I can't take English literature and tthat my L3 qualification in Hungarian/German language and literature would do, but I've always known this isn't true, and when I contacted Cambridge this year, it turned out that I was indeed right. My former high school obviously didn't offer English literature (and I knew nothing about the IB, international A-level specifications or the possibility of taking an A-level as a private candidate at that time), so I tried to apply to a UK college (Truro College) for the A-level programme. (I don't even understand why I insisted on taking the full A-level programme when I already had final exams in other subjects.) They offered me a place, but I couldn't start college in September because I had nowhere to live. I also tried applying for an IB scholarship (one of our British international schools offers two scholarship places every yearr), but that didn't work out either because their admissions tests weren't accessible (Long story short, they gave me two of the three tests in the wrong formats, plus the maths test was too hard for me.). I applied to a uni here to study English and American studies. My original plan was to just finish this course and then move over for my masters, but these two semesters have proved to me that this won't be possible. This course is a) too broad - it covers a bit of everything from business English through linguistics, applied linguistics to history and some literature as well), b) it's designed for foreign students with less background knowledge and a lower level of English, so what we do in seminars is not exactly what you'd call university level English literature (with one exception) Most students come here just to get a degree in something that doesn't seem too demanding, or even worse: to learn English, which is not exactly what this course is for. Linguistics and literature are often seen as "filler subjects".Back in February I had a conversation with one of my seminar tutors and she told me right there and then that if I'm serious about studying English I should apply to a top UK university right now, because seminars here are for 15 students, and 13 or 14 of them are only there because the seminars are compulsory. As the 4 mature colleges still had places available, I went ahead and contacted them. Three of them wouldn't take me because I didn't have the English A-level. Lucy Cavendish obviously thought that this degree course has given me the grounding in English they expect applicants to have, so they said they'd be happy to count my literature modules as an English lit A-level. I went ahead and filled in the application form. I applied to 4 other unis, and got 4 offers (three unconditional ones), but I had to turn them down because they didn't offer the funding (or the disability support I need in order to study in England, or at least it seemed so at the time, so I ended up withdrawing my whole application. I got an interview at Cambridge, but unfortunately not an offer, because at interview it turned out that although I do have the aptitude and the motivation, I lack the grounding in English (technical terms, etc.) that an A-level would give. I was kind of expecting a rejection because I don't get taught close reading properly. I've tried teaching myself, but it's extremely hard to find reliable secondary sources in ebook format, and JStore is kind of hit and miss - sometimes I can use it, sometimes it wouldn't even open! but I haven't given up! I'm reapplying for 2017. This time, I was going to choose a standard-age college (but see below). After I got my feedback from the mature college I applied to, I contacted literally all colleges and asked them for advice. I've also found out that Cambridge colleges expect applicants from Hungary to have taken at least 2 higher-level subjects (back in 2014 I could only take one), so I was going to retake my literature-related subjects at HL in November.
    Luckily, it has turned out that, in the case of two of my original choices, , the real issue wasn't that they don't offer the support I need, but that I had applied late and so all the deadlines for scholarship/bursary applications had passed. I'm re-applying to two of them. I'm still at my current uni, but I'm not taking a 'proper' second year - I'm only taking courses that are at least remotely related to my application.
    I have one British tutor at university, who also wrote my reference and was (and still is) there for me through the whole application process. When we found out I got rejected by Cambridge, he offered to prepare me for the CIE A-level in English. We started preparing for it in May and I was going to take it next summer. However, whether I'll be able to take the actual exam or not will depend on things beyond my control, and my choices know this. This is why I've ended up applying to Wolfson College at Cambridge.
    Before sending in my UCAS application on the 7th, I'd discussed my unique situation with my uni choices and they were all very understanding. I've applied to Cambridge (Wolfson College), Durham (St Chad's College), UCL and Exeter. I do have excellent exam results from two years ago so I stand a good chance of getting at least three offers again. It goes without saying that I'd be happy at any of these unis (especially Cambridge or Durham!), as they all have an excellent reputation both overall and for English specifically, their disability support systems seem amazing, and, probably most importantly, they all offer bursaries and scholarships to help with my living costs. Some of these scholarships are of course very competitive and they all have different eligibility criteria, but I've done my research and I've also started looking for alternative funding sources, both in the UK and in my home country.If I do get into Cambridge this time, I'll obviously go there, but if I get rejected again, I don't want to have to think about which of my other choices to firm. I've researched all 4 unis and courses very carefully before sending in the UCAs application and I honestly love the look of all 4. Being blind, my priorities are quite different from "ordinary" students' - I really don't care about aesthetics, nightlife or how many pubs there are around Cambridge/Durham/London/Exeter. If you're an English (or humanities) student at any of these unis, I'd really appreciate it if you could give me a list of pros and cons of your uni based on the following:
    - How accessible is the college/campus/faculty building?
    - distance between catered halls and the English department at your uni or your college and your uni, and how easy or hard it is to get from A to B (I can only imagine how hard this must be for a sighted person to describe, but every little detail helps!)
    - the quality of the food
    - how "visual" is your course? (I've read on Exeter's course description that "attention is paid to the study of film", which is really starting to put me off Exeter!
    - the city - I've read Durham is "hilly". I hope this doesn't mean I won't be able to take their offer (they gave me an unconditional llast time!)
    - anything you know about the disability support centre, or anything else you think I should know

    I can't think of anything else at the moment, but I'll probably update this list later. Thanks for reading this at all, and sorry for the "Dickens novel"!
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