SAMPLE UCAS PERSONAL STATEMENT – HISTORY AND GERMAN
Read the personal statement that successfully secured Ilona a place to read History and German at the universities of Oxford, Durham, Exeter, Warwick and Nottingham.
The study of History offers many benefits, including the ability to identify trends and hypothesise about future events. Theodore Roosevelt once said: “The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.” Certainly, as a result of studying History, I have found myself reflecting upon the contemporary world with greater understanding and it seems to me that in a rapidly evolving world, which faces many international issues, both global collaboration and an understanding of History are necessary. Learning a foreign language helps to facilitate the former, because it goes beyond easing communication between people: knowing a foreign language reduces misunderstandings and German has helped me to understand the complexities of the English language better. It has also increased my cultural understanding of the past. This has been particularly so for events in which Germany was heavily involved and it is because Germany has been, and continues to be, a major player on the world stage that I am attracted to this combined degree.
A-level History has led me to appreciate the Tudors’ fundamental importance in establishing the foundations of Britain’s economic and political hegemony over the following centuries. Thomas Penn’s Winter King deepened my understanding of Henry VII and concepts that were popular during that period, such as humanism. I am also looking at styles and methods of Russian leadership in the 19th and 20th centuries. My coursework essay examines the effectiveness of repression versus reform in the development of Russian government in this period. As a result, my awareness of historiography has increased and I now appreciate more the impact of factors such as time, location and politics on an historian’s interpretation of the past. I have also independently developed an interest in the German perspective of WWII. I enjoyed reading Inge Scholl’s Die Weiße Rose as it drew me into the Germany of the 1940s and informed me about the resistance movements against Nazism. The Flugblätter of Die Weiße Rose were a fascinating read; it was inspiring to see how a group of students argued against the fascist regime and the domestic war crimes that were being committed by the German government. I would like to use the university course to enrich my understanding of historiography and these time periods.
My interest in German extends beyond History and includes German literature and the language itself. Reading Die Physiker by Dürrenmatt and watching his play Der Besuch der alten Dame led me to appreciate his accessible style, which, while relatively easy to grasp on a surface level, still provoked many thoughts on deeper topics such as social responsibility as well as changes in societal expectations and values over time. I enjoyed reading Rilke’s Sonette an Orpheus, as I admire how the German language lends itself to well-structured rhythms. This has shown me that in contrast to its stereotype of being a harsh language, a remnant perhaps of the Nazi period, German can be very beautiful, melodic and soothing. Reading some of the sonnets aloud especially added to their beauty, as the sounds of the words used often fit in with the atmosphere of the sonnets themselves.
Over the last few years, I have represented schools in football, touch rugby and softball, which allowed me to learn how to work with others in competitive environments, while Model United Nations opened my eyes to different world views. Attending the German Club and History Society at my school have both increased my interest in these subjects, as I am able to explore them in more depth than in class. I feel ready and eager to take on the challenge of this joint degree and to go well beyond the foundation of my A-Level courses.