Classical foundation

  • 09 November 2021

Cambridge will welcome Foundation Year students from October 2022, but in Classics the opportunity already exists.

For some the idea of studying Classics casts a stereotype in their mind; Rosie Mutsaars (Classics 2018) is out to change that image.

She grew up in Gloucestershire and was state educated at The Cotswolds School, Bourton-on-the-Water, east of Cheltenham.

“I liked all my A-Levels but not enough to do them at university. I’ve always loved language learning and aspired to learning Latin, but never had the opportunity,” Rosie says.

“A friend recommended Classics - I looked into it and thought it sounded very up my street.”

She adds: “If you like languages and enjoy writing about philosophy, literature, art, it’s definitely the degree for you. I can’t see myself doing any other course.”

If you like languages and enjoy writing about philosophy, literature, art, Classics is definitely the degree for you.

Caius has five or six classicists in each year, but Rosie is the only one in fourth year, after she did a foundation year with around 20 others across the University of Cambridge.

“At some unis you have to do night school for Latin and Greek and you straightaway get shunted in with all the kids who have had the languages from a young age,” she adds.

“Cambridge is friendlier with its Preliminary year and makes a Classics degree much more accessible; the first year definitely eases you into life at Cambridge.

“With Classics you either apply to the three-year version or the four-year version, where you have no language experience. Everyone on that course is nearly always from a state or grammar school.

“You do language lessons and a couple of essays for that year, maybe three essays a term instead of eight. You’re only examined on the language at the end of the year, not all the content, so it’s learning for fun about ancient civilisations and getting used to the classical world. It was all completely new for me.”

An extra year at university means an additional year of loans, but also more opportunities, particularly after two academic years severely disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rosie is a keen cross-country runner and a Caius access ambassador, supporting prospective applicants, and also supports the Classics department’s outreach work.

She adds: “I don’t think I would’ve got to Cambridge if I hadn’t had people helping me, like the village Vicar, who gave me Latin lessons and lent me books, and an Oxbridge graduate who was a teacher at school and helped me with the tests. If I hadn’t known those individuals I wouldn’t have got here.

“I believe you have a responsibility to help those who are trying to get to where you are. Everyone has a moral obligation to pass on their experience.”

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