After having intended to do so since the beginning of the summer holidays, I've spent much of today conducting research into how to write a personal statement for university applications.
Applying to UK universities involves completing a UCAS application, which comprises several elements including roughly 600 words on why you want to go on to higher education, why you want to study your chosen course, what interests you about it, what proof you have of this interest, what makes you an ideal candidate for a place, what work experience/hobbies/activities you've done which relates to the subject, and basically why the admissions tutor should pick you over hundreds of other potential applicants. It has to read well, summarise everything clearly and concisely, and not contain too much superfluous language - I know the latter will be my downfall, as whenever I have to write anything formal (or just anything, really) I tend to throw in a good few sophisticated and/or elaborate words without really thinking about it.
Anyway, I scoured the UCAS site meticulously for pointers on what to include, read a few examples, and finally started drafting a few lines and paragraphs out. I immediately encountered one major difficulty - I am not used to writing about myself. Sure, I have a myriad of short bios on my various social media sites, and I write on my blog and for school, but never about myself, and never talking about my achievements and good qualities. For years the only lengthy pieces of writing I've done are analysing poetry and prose, or writing essays on themes. The whole concept of writing about myself is alien to me, and I found it pretty challenging in the beginning, although eventually I decided to try and pretend I was writing a story about someone else who has always been inspired by the world around them and the relationship between the Earth and humanity.
Another issue was that I kept getting temporary writer's block whenever I tried to really elaborate on why I want to study Geography at university. So to get myself started and get a (very) basic summary of what I really want to say in my application, I decided I'd just try and talk about it here, just as I would ramble on about anything else on my blog.
Why I Want to Study Geography
The thing about Geography is that whether people like it or not, they can't help but let their lives be affected by it, wherever they live in the world. People who live in difficult conditions due to the weather or landscape have their day-to-day existences controlled by rivers, mountains and tectonic plates, and the flooding, avalanches and earthquakes which can result from these geographical features, while everyone on the planet either has or is going to be affected by the consequences of globalisation and a increasingly global market.
Although a lot of Geography comes back to it, not everything is about the natural world. Personally I am far more interested in the human aspects of Geography, such as development, migration, political, urban & economic geography, politics & space, the geographies of health, transport & society, and - my particular field of interest due to the fact that it involves numbers and graphs and rates of change and other wonderfully complicated statistical data - population evolution.
I'm not so bothered about volcanoes and weather patterns, and all that physical Geography stuff people learn about in school - it's been around for hundred of years and if there's anything about it which no one has discovered yet, I'm not sure it's worth discovering. The thing about human Geography is that it's so current, so relevant to today's world that it surprises me constantly that there are people have no interest in it whatsoever. Take the ageing populations of Germany and Russia, for instance. It's a trend which is likely to spread to other western countries with large populations within the next 50 years, but does anybody care that they're going to have to fund a generation who will live longer and be accustomed to a more affluent way of life, to their own costs? And what about the increasingly consumer-orientated world we live in, and the inevitable consequences our selfishness is going to have on both the planet and future generations?
As someone who has grown up in such a multicultural, multilingual environment (thank you, Belgium, I can finally use you to my advantage - it's about time) I have always been fascinated by the world beyond my country's borders. There is so much happening out there, and I've never been one for small goals and ideas. I dream big, and the future of the planet is the biggest scale on which it is possible to study and (hopefully) work - why would I want to do anything else?