Iona, 19, studied her A Levels at our High Pavement Sixth Form. Achieving two A*s in Geography and Environmental Studies, and an A grade in History secured her a place at the prestigious University of Oxford to study Geography. We spoke to her shortly after receiving the good news and on how she’s feeling about her big move to Oxford.
How did you feel when you received your results?
I actually felt kind of stunned when I found out I had gotten the grades to get into Oxford, so it didn’t really sink in until later but I was very happy and relieved! I already had my A* in Environmental Studies A Level from last year but I still needed two As to get my place so I was very nervous. I suffered with really bad exam anxiety this year, so I was especially nervous. I knew I had been very stressed, upset and under-performed in some of my papers, so I was worried I wouldn’t get the grades I needed.
Not only did you get your place at one of the top universities in the country, but you were also the highest performer in OCR’s A Level Geography. How does that feel?
I still can’t believe this is true; it seems so crazy! It was such a nice surprise and made me feel even happier with my results!
Your parents must be so proud. How did they react when they heard the news?
My parents have been very supportive throughout my exams and I think they were just as happy and excited as I was, after collecting my results we went on a family day trip to Oxford to celebrate which was a really nice way to explore more of the city where I will be living.
Are you excited about starting your course at Oxford?
Yes, I am very excited to take my studies to a higher level and really get to discover more of the broad spectrum of Geography. I’m particularly excited to learn directly from researchers and experts in the field of geography who make up the teaching staff. Also I’m just excited to experience university life at such an amazing place!
Have you always aspired to study at Oxford?
No, actually I had not really considered it as an actual possibility until Kevin (my Geography teacher) suggested it at a parents’ evening in first year. I still wasn’t sure as I thought it was unlikely that I would get in, plus I wasn’t entirely sure if Oxford would be the right place for me as I was worried about it being snobby.
However, I decided to go to an open day and found it really friendly and a great academic environment and quickly fell in love with the place, so I decided it would be worth a shot at applying.
Luckily I managed to get an offer after the interviews - which weren’t as scary as people say! - so I would advise anyone to consider going on an open day there, even if you find the idea of Oxford as daunting as I did.
If you do decide to apply I would advise definitely doing thorough research into the different colleges as they all have different atmospheres. My college, St Anne’s, is a more modern college, which feels a lot more relaxed and inclusive than some of the more traditional colleges and that attracted me to it.
What is it about geography that you love?
I love the way geography is such an interdisciplinary and wide-reaching subject. I find the diversity of content fascinating from human geography like place making to physical geography such as plate tectonics, but what I love most is the way the two spheres interact as human and physical factors which are interconnected. For example, volcanic activity is a key determining factor in the economics and place identity of a region such as Iceland, which bases its tourism industry on tectonic activity.
What did you enjoy about your time at High Pavement?
The teachers at High Pavement were so helpful, particularly my History teacher Martin Vickers. Without him marking all of my extra essays I gave him, I know I would not have done as well in the exam. I also had help from Zoe (the College’s UCAS coordinator for A Level students) with editing my personal statement to make it more suitable for an Oxford application.
What is your dream career?
My dream career would be in the environment and conservation sector, I am part of a Wildlife Trust youth group and I would love to work for a similar organisation in the future. My geography degree will help towards this as there are modules on biogeography and conservation. Then, I may either do a more specialised Masters Degree or go straight into a career, depending on opportunities.