Former A Level History, Law, Philosophy of Religion and Ethics and AS Sociology student Oscar talks about his experience at Callywith and studying History at Exeter University.

Previous School: St Joseph's School

Courses studied: A Level History, Law, Philosophy of Religion and Ethics and AS Sociology

Extra Activites: Academic Academy 

Progression: History - Exeter University

How are you finding your course/experience at university?

My last year and a half at Exeter has been a wonderful experience. I have met many more people and of course, I love my degree. Exeter has been a great place to study, with a great atmosphere and ample support for the students. I have really enjoyed my course, as at university you can really specialise in certain areas and periods. The Medieval area has been mine. University gives you the opportunity to explore areas that you never heard of at GCSE or A Level.

With regards to experience, the social aspects of university are on par with the academic. In many ways that is a key pull for many prospective students, having that university experience. In many ways I reflect this, as when I am not studying, I can always be found in a club; the chess club that is.

Unfortunately, with Covid, in person teaching and socialising has been cut back considerably, which has impacted myself and the wider student body at large. Talking to students, it is clear that this has led to a downturn in their mental health, a fact that the university has acted on and is eager to improve the student experience in the face of this adversity.

Despite this, I have had one of the best experiences of my life here in Exeter, nearly reaching the heights of my time at Callywith. University was definitely the right choice for me. It allows me to exercise my intellectual curiosity to discover and explore new interesting areas of study.

How did your time at Callywith influence and support your choice of/transition to university?

My time at Callywith was instrumental in my choice and transition to university. Through the support of the teachers, I realised my potential and started to work towards my future. There were huge amounts of help in regard to applying to university. There can be huge amounts of anxiety and stress when applying, but with the help of my personal tutor, the process was streamlined and easily followed. Moreover, Callywith held lots of talks from potential universities that helped form my choice. It was also very useful to just talk to my lecturers and ask them about their experiences at university. It was very helpful to get accounts of what they experienced and how it has shaped their life.

In many, that point encapsulates a wider one about Callywith in general. The staff are very approachable and interact with the students in a way that learning becomes fun, the only downside to this was that I found it a bit of a shock when I did not have to call them ‘Miss’, or ‘Sir’. These factors also helped the transition to university teaching as the lessons were more often like seminars, where we would all discuss what was being taught in an open and thoughtful way.

What do you enjoy in particular about studying History?

This is a hard question. I remember writing in my personal statement the general statement of ‘history was a study of our past and also our future’, which not only sounded good at the time, but now I think it is much more complicated and harder to answer. I have always liked history and have always been good at it, that’s the first part. The second is that while studying at university, history allows me to exercise freedom of thought when looking back into the past, which I find very exciting. Working with primary sources has been really fun. I am currently working on an independent project that investigates how the Fourth Crusade impacted the potential of church union, with those sources being very rich and vivid. So, by studying history, the past is brought back to life. That is what I enjoy.

How have your A Levels helped you in your degree?

A Level History gave me the foundational skills needed to pursue a history degree. It allowed me to investigate primary source material, put forward my own answers and further opened my eyes to the richness that studying history has to offer. I would like to say a special thanks to the Callywith history team. Those lessons were very enjoyable, with the entire team being highly exceptional.

What are you hoping to do in the future?

That is a good question. Currently I would like to join the Foreign Office. It looks like a very worthwhile job with great opportunities abroad. Conversely, thanks to my Law classes in Callywith I would also like to be a barrister. Failing that, I harbour an ambition to be a published historian.