History brings together so many threads that are important to understanding how the world works. The opposing views of the importance of studying what has happened in the past fascinate me; I have read some works by philosophers who believe that personal experience is the key to growth while others are convinced that important lessons can be learned from looking at how people have dealt with problems in the past. Studying history at university will, I think, offer me the opportunity to explore all sorts of grey areas, to explore important questions and discuss and debate them, without necessarily coming up with one absolute answer.
My A level history course has focused on European history in the first half of the 19th century – how the German Empire came into being and then how the rise of Germany through the latter part of the century and towards 1914 set in motion events that led, ultimately, to two World Wars. Finding out about the evolution of modern Europe, the tensions and the explosions of conflict really opened my eyes to how complex human society is.
During my work on the development of Europe I found myself wanting to read far more deeply than the set text books. Different writers and commentators have varying views on just about everything and I think it is true that there is not one history but several, depending on the perspective of the person recording it. I would now relish the opportunity to study other periods of history in depth and to see how events even in ancient history are relevant to what is happening today.
As my knowledge of European history increased, this made me enjoy trips to Germany, Spain and France even more. I participated in a college trip to Berlin, where we went to Check Point Charlie, what is left of the Berlin wall and the museum there that traced the more recent reunification of Germany that happened in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I also visited the Jewish Museum in Berlin too and walking through the Memory Void, which has a floor made of thousands of faces in iron that you walk on, symbolising the thousands of victims of the holocaust, was both moving and disturbing. That really brought home to me that past events can be experienced and learned about in many different ways, not just through reading accounts of what happened.
I feel I am ready now to take the next step in my education and I have applied to study history, choosing courses that offer a wide range of modules that will enable me to explore different periods of human history. In order to get the most out of a university education, and to be able to contribute positively, I would like to defer my entry until September 2013 and intend to spend a year in Australia, working and exploring. I have relatives there and already have an offer of a 3-month job acting as a general dogsbody in a museum in Brisbane. I also hope to be able to spend some time surfing – I love water sports and live quite close to the coast here in Scotland. I’ve completed several courses as part of the RYA Youth Sailing Scheme at the Cumbrae centre in Ayrshire with my older brother and I enjoy the thrill of being so close to the power of the sea.
In the future, I see all the threads of my experience coming together in a career where I work on explaining history and its significance to others. Writing, I know, will be a large part of this and I am starting a personal blog to chart my gap year.