Chanel Ng is currently studying Geography at Durham University. Chanel completed her A-Levels at Epsom College in Malaysia and is graduating in 2023. This personal statement was part of her successful application to Durham University, King’s College London and University of Sussex for Geography.
I traveled extensively when I was young and am privileged to have experienced many countries different from my own. Despite it being an unfamiliar subject in Malaysia generally, I was keen to study Geography and find it fascinating. My study of Geography has enabled me to begin to understand some of the differences that I have observed.
A trip to Latvia sparked my interest in human geography: I noticed that elderly Latvians were inclined to wear an innate, monochrome colour combination. This came as a cultural shock as Malaysians tend to dress in bold, prismatic colours. I later discovered that the Latvian dress is shaped by their history. The elderly tend to dress in dark garments due to the influence of communism and their past under the USSR. It was interesting to see how history has affected their culture and way of life. Their traditions, language and food intrigued me as they varied greatly from my own, yet were similarly harmonious in their existence. My enthusiasm for cultural geography grew as I sought to better understand such cultural differences.
Through my adolescence, this interest in culture developed into a deeper fascination with identity, human development and particularly geopolitics. Tim Marshall’s ‘Prisoners of Geography’ illustrates to what extent physical geography, in addition to geopolitics, has shaped countries into what they are today. As Editor of my college’s Geography magazine, I wrote my first article on colonialism and kakistocracy, investigating who is to blame for African poverty. I determined that while colonialism has hindered Africa’s growth, it has been exacerbated by a culture of selfish leaders focused on abusing power to amass wealth while the general population bore the brunt of political corruption.
My Geography A-level has taught me about globalisation and how it has led to a borderless world in many ways. However, whilst I was taught that freer and more frequent interactions internationally dilute a person’s affiliation and sentiments towards their country, I enjoyed reading John Judis’ counterarguments in ‘The Nationalist Revival’. Nationalistic movements, such as Brexit and the “Make America Great Again” campaign, have validated Judis’ discussions on the return of nationalism, as well as the change in our perception of nationalists. He made me consider nationalism within Malaysia and how the prioritisation of Malaysian nationals of a certain race, called Bumiputeras, through governmental policies and practices, has led to many highly qualified non-Bumiputeras emigrating from Malaysia since the 1980s. An accelerated decline in the proportion of the population of other races compared to Bumiputeras is worrying: future policies and practices that further neglect the welfare of these other races may be justified, thus causing potential problems within Malaysia’s identity and society.
Economics A-level helped me to better understand the economic impacts of these changes, as well as the many other links between Geography and Economics, such as the development of today’s economies and how societies function. I enjoyed applying my knowledge of the US and China trade war in a recent university essay competition. Through Mathematics A-level, I have significantly improved my analytical and calculative skills which has fed into my Geography NEA fieldwork. I like to put my teamwork and leadership skills to good use for the ‘[Name] Geographic’ magazine, as well as in my other extracurricular activities. I was delighted to be appointed Deputy Head of College in recognition of my contributions to College life as well as my personal skills and attributes.
Geography is a vital subject as it is integral to understanding the world in which we live. The world is changing rapidly and understanding the causes behind these changes should be compulsory for all. Whilst this is not yet the case, I am excited to develop my own understanding of the subject to a greater level through my undergraduate studies.
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