elilast
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Hello, at the request of @Oxford Mum I've written a Classics chapter for Oxford Demystified!

Classics is the study of Ancient Rome and Greece, and at Oxford the course consists of learning Latin and/or Greek and studying classical literature as well as a wide variety of other options like philosophy and ancient history.

They offer two options for Classics applicants: Course I, for students who have studied Latin and/or Ancient Greek to A-Level, and Course II for students who do not. I have an offer to study Classics Course I, as I studied Latin to A-Level, but I’d really like to emphasise that your background in studying Greek and Latin should not be a barrier to applying for Classics – especially as the majority of schools no longer offer them. If you’d like to learn specifically about applying for Course II, then I recommend the Youtube channels of Molly at Oxford and Viola Helen, both Course II Classics students with useful videos on student life and improving access to Classics.

This is all of course only my own personal experience, and from speaking to other students, it seems that people come at the application process in very different ways, so please don’t take this as the definitive guide to a Classics application! I know I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have the opportunities that I’ve had to study classical subjects at school, and I just wanted to offer other students as much insight into the application process as I can.

Why did you want to study Classics?

I have always enjoyed a variety of subjects, so whilst I knew I wanted to go to university the prospect of having to narrow it down to just one or two subjects was quite daunting to me. In Year 11 and Year 12 I found myself really enjoying Latin. I eventually decided that Classics was the right subject for me mainly just because I just loved studying Latin and reading outside the subject – I felt so excited looking through the modules for university courses. I also particularly enjoy that a Classics degree allows for quite a lot of flexibility – I think it’s quite special to find a single subject course that can involve language learning, literature, history, archaeology, art and philosophy all in one!

Why Oxford?

Oxford is of course an amazing university academically, and it also has one of the best Classics courses in the country. I love that it combines quite rigorous training in the languages and important texts in the first two years and then gives you a lot of flexibility, including the option to study modern philosophy which I don’t think is available in any other Classics course as part of the degree! I also just really liked Oxford as a place when I visited for the Oxbridge Classics Open Day.

Did any of your teachers inspire you? Or any other expert (TV presenter etc)

I think I’m quite indebted to my Latin teachers for making the subject so enjoyable – I almost went down the sciences route, but my wonderful GCSE teacher led to me changing my mind at the last moment.

Which resources did you use? Which books/journals did you read?

My main attitude with reading was to firstly look at a bunch of stuff to see which topics I was actually interested in, and then to try and read a variety of books/articles concerning around 3 of those topics (this could be an author, genre or topic e.g. Virgil, Greek Tragedy, Athenian democracy). I wrote everything I read down as a note on my phone, with the date and my opinion on the book, which allowed for easy reference when writing my personal statement.

Overall, I felt it was best to be able to give some in depth opinions on specific topics rather than attempt to gain a surface level understanding of everything. But probably the most important thing is for you to find the parts of the subject that interest you and explore that.

I’ve tried to split the following recommendations up roughly into the genres and to include a variety of suggestions. I’m also a big fan of podcasts so I put my favourite Classics ones in here – the Oxford University ones are my favourite since they actually give you an idea of how academics talk about the subject. Of course, there are plenty of other books, articles, tv shows etc out there – reading more classical texts in translation is always an excellent place to start. (Also, sometimes I like to just read the introduction to books and it gives me enough understanding of the topic to just avoid reading the whole thing but still be able to sensibly discuss it if it comes up.)

Spoiler:
Show

Books

- Classics: A Very Short Introduction (general intro to Classics)

- Cicero trilogy by Robert Harris (novel about Cicero)

- The Alexander Trilogy by Mary Renault (fiction about Ancient Greece)


- SPQR by Mary Beard (Roman history)

- Dynasty by Tom Holland (Roman history)


- Nox by Anne Carson (Classics-influenced poetry)

- Memorial by Alice Oswald (Classics-influenced poetry)


- Catullus (Latin poetry)

- If Not, Winter: fragments of Sappho by Anne Carson (Greek poetry)

- the three main epic poems of antiquity: the Aeneid, the Iliad, and the Odyssey (my favourite is Emily Wilson’s translation of the Odyssey)

- The Oresteia by Aeschylus (Greek tragedy)


- The Latin Love Poets by ROAM Lyne (commentary on Latin poetry)


Academic articles

- Re-figuring the feminine voice: Catullus translating Sappho by Ellen Greene

- The Rise and Fall of Dionysus: Suzuki Tadashi and Greek Tragedy by Marianne McDonald

- Cross-Cultural Translation Studies as Thick Translation by Theo Hermans



Podcasts

- Oxford Faculty of Classics

- Ancient Greece Declassified

- Oxford Greek and Roman Drama (APGRD) lectures

- Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation (OCCT) lectures

- The History of Rome


Did you attend any lectures, or take part in any competitions? If so, would you recommend them, and why?

I entered two essay competitions and I would definitely recommend them; they were a great way for me to focus my research around a particular goal and end date, and they gave me something concrete to talk about on my personal statement.

What did you mention in your personal statement and why?

I talked about why I was interested in Classics and the specific parts of the subject I was interested in (Catullus and Roman history – in retrospect, it might have been good to add something in about Ancient Greece). I added in the usual stuff about study skills, and being in independent learner, and paragraph about my extracurricular activities which I tied into my academics by saying it would help me with time management, organisation etc.

Which techniques did you use for the entrance test?

I took the Classics Admissions Test (CAT) for Latin, which essentially involved regularly practising lots of translation, vocab and grammar before the test. I essentially just tried to do a Latin translation/past paper once a week from the start of Year 13 and wrote down any new vocab in a notebook. In the week before the test, I did all the rest of the past papers in proper timed conditions and also brushed up on my grammar just as I would for a mock exam.

Students who haven’t studied Greek or Latin to A-Level take the Classics Language Aptitude Test, which usually involves answering questions about an obscure or made-up language. I’m afraid I can’t offer advice on it, but there are several past papers online for both the CAT and CLAT here. I’ve heard that the test is similar to the questions set for the UK Languages Olympiad if you’re looking for more questions.

How did you choose your college? Did you go to an open day and if so, did it help you to decide?

I already knew that I wanted to apply to one of the more relaxed and progressive colleges just out of personal preference. Although I wasn’t able to go to an open day, when I went to visit Oxford at another time I loved the location of St Hilda’s by the river. From their website and the people I met there, the college seemed quite chilled and accepting, which is what I was looking for.

How did you find the interview process?

I found the whole interview process frankly quite difficult and stressful. (I had some other personal things occurring around that time as well which didn’t help.) I had two interviews, both at St Hilda’s which I applied for. I felt that my second interview, although some of it was on philosophy which I was unfamiliar with, went a lot better as I was a bit more relaxed.

To prepare for the interviews I essentially did the same thing that I’d been doing for my personal statement – just spending time reading articles, books, and related podcasts. I also made sure that I re-read all of my set texts, including the introduction in the textbooks. I practiced some standard personal statement questions with my parents, like why I wanted to study classics, and my opinions about certain books on my personal statement.

I was also very fortunate to have had two mock interviews at school – one where I had to comment on some different English translations of a Latin poem, and one where I discussed my personal statement and my opinions on the general relevance of classics. I did think these were useful for getting used to talking in an academic way in a pressured situation, so if you can mimic this by setting up an interview with a teacher, recording yourself, or talking to a parent it’s good to have a bit of an idea before you have the real thing.

Any interview tips?

My tips would be:
1. Read lots around your subject
2. Practice talking about your subject (to someone else or just to yourself) so you can be more confident having an academic discussion
3. If you study Latin/Greek, practice translating out loud
4. Give your honest thought processes when answering question
5. Try to relax before your interview and enjoy your time in Oxford

Did you socialise during interview week? If so, what did you do?

I chatted with some people at the meals and in the evening but to be honest, I didn’t spend that much time socialising haha, I'm a fairly introverted person anyway and just wasn't really in the mood.

How did you feel after the interviews?

I felt quite tense for a lot of the time I was there, and for weeks after both of my interviews I felt so embarrassed and I kept replaying what I’d said, wishing that I had answered certain questions differently or brushed up on my language beforehand. At this point it’s a bit difficult to remember them clearly without applying any kind of judgement based on my own feelings about my Oxford application and what I now know having an offer.


Where were you when you got your offer? How did you react?

Although I wasn’t even completely sure if I wanted to go to Oxford after the interview experience, I was still nervous to get the results of my application. I was very much preparing myself for rejection and imagining my life at other universities. I got an email just before I left to go to school and I did actually have a bit of a cry. It felt like the application process had been so long and although I wasn’t completely set on Oxford as a place, I did feel like I had really put my heart and my love of Classics into this application.

Once the shock wore off, I was really overjoyed and I do feel incredibly lucky to have actually gotten an offer – and although I was very much preparing myself for rejection, I also recognise that I did apply with the support of my teachers and family which allowed me to spend the time on my application that I did, for which I’m incredibly grateful.

Are you looking forward to coming up to Oxford?

I actually haven’t accepted my offer yet – it sounds crazy, but I feel nervous about the intense academic environment of Oxford, and about my own ability to keep up with the other much smarter students. But since school finished I’ve been spending a lot more time thinking about and researching university choices, and – granted that I get the grades – I’m looking forward to starting my studies at Oxford in the autumn.

A few extra links

Worcester college have a list of links to classics-related extension you could take a look at:

https://www.worc.ox.ac.uk/applying/a...port-year-12-3

studyclassics.co.uk is also a new resource I’ve seen which looks very useful – it has lots of past papers and sample personal statements.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to ask me any questions! I love Classics, and I'm passionate that studying it should be an option open to everyone. Best of luck to anyone making an application
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Oxford Mum
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Further resources for Classics

Sample interview questions, plus suggestions for further reading

https://www.oxfordinterviewquestions...ions/classics/

https://sites.google.com/site/oxbrid...tions/classics

apply.oxfordsu.org/courses/classics/interviews/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6rCDNuTaPI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oU9rrh6YLs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AmGScLTv4M (introduces us to Molly)

Molly has done some great youtube interviews, also about life at Oriel college, and life as an Oxford student. She is definitely worth checking out.

As a classical civilisation ex student, I would recomment "The Odyssey" by Homer, Ovid's "Metamorphoses" and the "Aeneid" by Virgil. If you haven't studied Latin, these are available in the English translation.

Also documentaries by Mary Beard are fascinating if you want to know more about life in ancient Rome. Mary Beard is Classics tutor at Newnham College, Cambridge (women only college).
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Oxford Mum
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I am glad you have picked the course you enjoyed the look of most. Classics is a fascinating subject, and one that I am sure you will enjoy at Oxford.

Hope you can persuade other prospective students (some of whom may never have studied Latin) to enter this amazing world.
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Mona123456
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Thank you for this wonderful chapter. It’s very detailed and I’m sure lots of prospective applicants will find it helpful!
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Oxford Mum
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Prsom Mona123456
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elilast
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(Original post by Oxford Mum)
I am glad you have picked the course you enjoyed the look of most. Classics is a fascinating subject, and one that I am sure you will enjoy at Oxford.

Hope you can persuade other prospective students (some of whom may never have studied Latin) to enter this amazing world.
Thanks, I really hope so!
(Original post by Mona123456)
Thank you for this wonderful chapter. It’s very detailed and I’m sure lots of prospective applicants will find it helpful!
Thank you, hopefully it will be useful to some future students browsing this forum for information as I did, haha.
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tabi0903
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Hey! I'm a year 12 student currently looking at studying Classics. I'm finding it difficult to choose between Oxford and Cambridge (though obviously there's not guarantee of either). How did you/people you know choose?
Thanks for the v. detailed post
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elilast
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(Original post by tabi0903)
Hey! I'm a year 12 student currently looking at studying Classics. I'm finding it difficult to choose between Oxford and Cambridge (though obviously there's not guarantee of either). How did you/people you know choose?
Thanks for the v. detailed post
Hey! I’m glad to hear you’re looking at Classics. I actually spent a lot of time trying to choose between Cambridge and Oxford – which looking back was probably excessive, but it means I am in a better place to answer your question…

Things you might want to consider consider:
- differences in courses: if you haven’t already had a look, you can view course descriptions on the websites for both Classics Faculties (for Cambridge the section under ‘current undergraduate’ course structure gives more details than the prospective student section’
- application process: Oxford usually requires entrance tests to be taken in October, whereas at Cambridge they will be at the interview in December. Also, Cambridge interviews are usually only on one day whereas at Oxford you can have several over a number of days.
- location: do you prefer Cambridge or Oxford as a place to live? How far are they from your home? Cost of living? Etc.
Also, if it makes a difference to you, Cambridge does actually have a slightly higher admissions rate for Classics, around 50%, though it’s still 40% at Oxford, well above most other courses.

Differences in courses:
- In Cambridge, if you are a student without A-Level Greek or Latin, you take a 4 year course and spend the first year intensively learning Latin, then in 2nd year you join with freshers who have A-Level Latin to learn Greek. In Oxford, everyone takes a 4 year course and you can choose between starting with Greek or Latin.
- Oxford offers modern philosophy modules as part of the Classics course, whereas Cambridge does not. However, Cambridge does offer the ‘tripos’ which I believe allows you to take modules from another faculty in your 3rd year. (It’s been a while since I looked at it)
- In Cambridge, you spend 2 terms intensively learning Greek, whereas in Oxford you will spend the first 2 years learning Latin/Greek from scratch (unless you’ve done an A-Level in both.)
- The first 2 years in Oxford are quite restricted for options – you will have the opportunity to study archaeology, ancient history or linguistics from 2nd year in Cambridge (the 3rd year of the 4-year course), compared to 3rd year for all students in Oxford
- Cambridge is, in my opinion, a slightly less traditional course than Oxford in terms of module options – they offer an interdisciplinary ‘Paper X’ in your final year, which studies a particular theme from different approaches and time periods. This does not exist in Oxford; currently the only classical reception module is on 20th century literature.

How I chose:
- Oxford offered me 2 years to learn Greek intensiveky, rather than 1
- Oxford offered the opportunity to study modern philosophy
- The admissions test for Oxford was in October rather than December (I knew that I would be busy and tired in November/early December)
- I visited both and preferred the atmosphere of Oxford as a place
- A student from my school applied for Classics at Oxford last year, so my teachers were familiar with the application process

To be honest, there wasn’t much in it, and I mainly chose Oxford for practical reasons over the course, since for me there were pros and cons to both courses. Good luck - of course it’s important to make the right decision for you but don’t stress about it too much! If you have any other questions just let me know
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tabi0903
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(Original post by elilast)
Hey! I’m glad to hear you’re looking at Classics. I actually spent a lot of time trying to choose between Cambridge and Oxford – which looking back was probably excessive, but it means I am in a better place to answer your question…

Things you might want to consider consider:
- differences in courses: if you haven’t already had a look, you can view course descriptions on the websites for both Classics Faculties (for Cambridge the section under ‘current undergraduate’ course structure gives more details than the prospective student section’
- application process: Oxford usually requires entrance tests to be taken in October, whereas at Cambridge they will be at the interview in December. Also, Cambridge interviews are usually only on one day whereas at Oxford you can have several over a number of days.
- location: do you prefer Cambridge or Oxford as a place to live? How far are they from your home? Cost of living? Etc.
Also, if it makes a difference to you, Cambridge does actually have a slightly higher admissions rate for Classics, around 50%, though it’s still 40% at Oxford, well above most other courses.

Differences in courses:
- In Cambridge, if you are a student without A-Level Greek or Latin, you take a 4 year course and spend the first year intensively learning Latin, then in 2nd year you join with freshers who have A-Level Latin to learn Greek. In Oxford, everyone takes a 4 year course and you can choose between starting with Greek or Latin.
- Oxford offers modern philosophy modules as part of the Classics course, whereas Cambridge does not. However, Cambridge does offer the ‘tripos’ which I believe allows you to take modules from another faculty in your 3rd year. (It’s been a while since I looked at it)
- In Cambridge, you spend 2 terms intensively learning Greek, whereas in Oxford you will spend the first 2 years learning Latin/Greek from scratch (unless you’ve done an A-Level in both.)
- The first 2 years in Oxford are quite restricted for options – you will have the opportunity to study archaeology, ancient history or linguistics from 2nd year in Cambridge (the 3rd year of the 4-year course), compared to 3rd year for all students in Oxford
- Cambridge is, in my opinion, a slightly less traditional course than Oxford in terms of module options – they offer an interdisciplinary ‘Paper X’ in your final year, which studies a particular theme from different approaches and time periods. This does not exist in Oxford; currently the only classical reception module is on 20th century literature.

How I chose:
- Oxford offered me 2 years to learn Greek intensiveky, rather than 1
- Oxford offered the opportunity to study modern philosophy
- The admissions test for Oxford was in October rather than December (I knew that I would be busy and tired in November/early December)
- I visited both and preferred the atmosphere of Oxford as a place
- A student from my school applied for Classics at Oxford last year, so my teachers were familiar with the application process

To be honest, there wasn’t much in it, and I mainly chose Oxford for practical reasons over the course, since for me there were pros and cons to both courses. Good luck - of course it’s important to make the right decision for you but don’t stress about it too much! If you have any other questions just let me know
Thanks so much! Still a tough decision but hearing your thought process definitely helps
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tabi0903
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Hi! I'm back again! Was just wondering- how important was the number of people in your college doing your course to you? Because some Oxford colleges have only two or three or Classics students and some would have six/seven in total. How important would you say that is?
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elilast
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(Original post by tabi0903)
Hi! I'm back again! Was just wondering- how important was the number of people in your college doing your course to you? Because some Oxford colleges have only two or three or Classics students and some would have six/seven in total. How important would you say that is?
Hi, I think it matters more to some people than others - the number of students was a factor in my decision (my college is one of the larger ones for Classics at about 7 students) but it wasn't the most important. Generally, a larger Classics cohort could mean more in-college Classics tutors or more grants for textbooks/travel. Or at least I personally did in part base my decision on the fact that I liked the idea of having a greater number of Classics tutors at my college, rather than potentially being stuck with one I didn't get on very well with haha. However, to be honest I don't imagine it has a massive effect on your university experience; it can just be a one of a number of factors to help you pick a college, if you want to. Hope that helps!
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elilast
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I know it's approaching the application period right now so if anyone has questions about applying to Classics (or related subjects, if I can't answer I'm sure I can find someone who can!) then feel free to ask away
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Oxford Mum
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(Original post by elilast)
I know it's approaching the application period right now so if anyone has questions about applying to Classics (or related subjects, if I can't answer I'm sure I can find someone who can!) then feel free to ask away
Thanks for thinking of the students.

Are you a current student, or about to go up for the first time? If so, have a great time yourself.
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elilast
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(Original post by Oxford Mum)
Thanks for thinking of the students.

Are you a current student, or about to go up for the first time? If so, have a great time yourself.
No problem! Thanks for everything you do on here, I've basically just answered one or two posts, lol. And I'm about to move in for the first time in a few days - thank you so much!
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I know you will love it. Someone I know has just graduated from Oxford classics and had a fine time.
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(Original post by elilast)
I know it's approaching the application period right now so if anyone has questions about applying to Classics (or related subjects, if I can't answer I'm sure I can find someone who can!) then feel free to ask away
Hi! I’ve just applied to Oxford for Classics II! I was wondering what kind of topics may come up in the interview and what to expect?
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Oxford Mum
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Good luck with your application, Byronic!
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(Original post by Oxford Mum)
Good luck with your application, Byronic!
Thank you very much!!
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(Original post by byronic2907)


Hi! I’ve just applied to Oxford for Classics II! I was wondering what kind of topics may come up in the interview and what to expect?
Hi! That's amazing, good luck with your application!! Which college are you applying for?

As for interviews, they vary between the colleges and I think this is especially true for Classics since it covers so many different subject areas (literature, language, ancient history, archaeology, philosophy and art) so I can't give you a definite answer, sorry!

However, I'd say it's quite likely you'll be asked something to do with literature or languages. For example you might be given a translation of a Latin poem look at for 15 minutes before the interview and then you'll go into a room with 1-3 tutors and they'll ask you to talk about what you found interesting, or maybe to compare two different English translations of the same poem. In terms of language, for Course II they might ask whether you have any experience with other foreign languages, why you've chosen a language degree etc.

They might also ask you really anything to do with the ancient world, such as looking at a picture of a vase/archaeological site and commenting on it, or asking a broad open philosophy question. Some people get asked a lot about their personal statement (I did!) but some people don't get asked about it at all. I don't know if it's different this year with virtual interviews, but usually students applying for Course II also have an interview at the Classics Faculty which is not specific to a college - I'm not 100% sure what goes on in this though but if you do have that don't be worried or anything!

A few mock interviews: and useful links
What the tutors are looking for at interview (from the Classics faculty themselves) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFCCporpM3Q
Mock interview from Oriel College https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oU9rrh6YLs
Mock interview from Jesus College (I've only watched a bit of this, the part at the start where she talks about all her experience excavating stuff really isn't that useful in my opinion :/ but the discussion of the poem is a good example) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6rCDNuTaPI
And some example questions here (you won't necessarily be asked stuff like this but it's still good for thinking about Classics generally) https://www.cambridgeinterviewquesti...arts/classics/
Not specifically interview related, but a shout-out to this new channel sabrinatheclassicist, I know she's planning to put up a bunch of videos about Classics at Oxford which you might find useful https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX-...0inpazw/videos

The most important thing that I would say is tell the tutors what you're thinking! They want to see your thought process, not just the finished answer (or sometimes the thought process is more important than the answer).

Once again - I wish you the best of luck!! Hope that helps a bit (despite all the rambling) and you can always get in contact with me if you have any other questions
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