By Rosie Stevenson
At the beginning of sixth form, I knew I wanted to study languages at University but had never really delved into foreign literature or film outside of the classroom. The idea of going up against other candidates who had been reading Victor Hugo since Year 7 absolutely terrified me, but if you’re reading this and feel the same way I did – please don’t worry!
In my personal statement I wrote about seven different texts (books and films) in the French and Spanish languages: seven might seem like a lot, but I actually only wrote a sentence or two on each and linked them together in separate paragraphs.
The first book I wrote about was La Casa de Bernarda Alba, which I’d studied as part of the A Level Spanish course. I linked it in my personal statement to Lorca’s Romancero Gitano, which I’d seen on the first year reading list for the course I was applying to – this is a really helpful starting place if you’re struggling to find appropriate things to read! I also wrote about two Spanish films - Almodóvar's Hable con Ella and La Isla Mínima by Alberto Rodríguez, which was a great way of showing my interest in popular Spanish culture outside of the curriculum. I stumbled across these on Film 4 – but the ‘International’ section on Netflix is a much easier way to find foreign language films.
When it came to writing about French literature, I wrote again about the book I’d been studying at school, Joseph Joffo’s Un Sac de Billes. Another tip I’d give to anyone looking to flesh out their personal statement is to do some googling around your A Level texts and see if there are any other similar books from the same period or on the same topics. A Wikipedia search on Joseph Joffo led me to read two really short and easy to read books, Jean Anouilh's Antigone and Cocteau's La Machine Infernale. I bought them on eBay for about £3 each – but pdf versions of most literary classics can be quickly found online! Including these in my personal statement really helped to show deeper understanding of the A Level course content and allowed me to identify some broader literary themes that I’d seen on the University faculty’s website.
Writing about literature and film in your personal statement can often seem like a mystical process. But by breaking it down into manageable chunks and starting with what you already know or have done at school, you can absolutely end up with something that will impress the admissions team and improve your language skills along the way.