Foucault argues that language is power. In my experience, this is undeniably true. Whether talking my way out of trouble at work or communicating important information to a fellow volunteer, language is central to everything we do.
Following the successful completion of my A2s, in which I achieved three ‘A’ grades, I decided to spend a year out before applying to University. During the first half of my year out I worked for an electrical engineering company so I could fund a volunteering opportunity working for UNICEF in Africa.
In both roles, language was a vital component in securing successful outcomes. During my work experience I managed an order book for a subcontractor to a major electrical supplier and clear communication was a large part of my role, keeping the customer both happy and informed as well as keeping suppliers on track. It was during this time that I learnt that a breakdown in relations can often result from a breakdown in clear communication. From not being clear on a phone-conversation, where no body language can be seen, to misplacing a comma in an email, sometimes it can be far easier to be misunderstood than understood.
For the second half of my gap year I volunteered with UNICEF in Africa, helping to run an orphanage in one of the areas hardest hit by the spread of HIV. This was, and is likely to remain, the most humbling experience of my life. Stalin once commented “when one man dies it is a tragedy, when thousands die it’s statistics” and, sadly, never has this been more true for the thousands of children who die silently across Africa each year. Having taken so many things for granted whilst growing up, it is as though I have been given a fresh pair of eyes. From eating breakfast to doing some laundry or chatting to a friend online, I now spare a thought for the other world which exists within our own.
Before my gap year I am ashamed to admit I did not recognise the full value of going to University but, with my fresh pair of eyes, I am keen to make the best out of this and every opportunity. I have always enjoyed reading widely and during my time in Africa I read Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I was particularly horrified by some of the “achievements” of our dark past when, as an Empire, we ruled the world. During my time in Africa I also became interested in the work of post-colonial writers such as Tayeb Salih who reacted against colonialism by writing back works such as those by Conrad.
In addition to reading I also enjoy writing short stories (with a twist in the tale) although at University I hope to branch out and experiment with other forms of writing, including poetry, which I’ve always enjoyed reading but struggled at composing. I appreciate now that these could be the most important three years of my life so I hope you will be able to consider my application.