My Foundation in Faith: How receiving devastating A-Levels resulted in God putting me onto my dream course.

On the 1st July 2019, I received my final grade and, as a result, my foundation year was finished. Staring at my record and seeing that I had finished that year with 2% off what would have been the equivalent of a ‘first’ was frustrating, but I was still more than proud of what I had achieved. My ‘A’ levels had been somewhat of a car crash, going from being an A grade student to getting U’s in subjects that I thought I was good at was crushing. The ‘A’ level subjects I had chosen were Maths, Physics, and Psychology, not the easiest subjects; I chose these subjects because they were considered ‘smart subjects’ and partly due to peer pressure from others to choose them. In hindsight, choosing ‘A’ levels in subjects I was actually interested in would have been a good idea! For example, History; this was a subject that I adored, could learn about for hours, and would spend a lot of my free time watching documentaries about. Why hadn’t I picked my favourite subject at ‘A’ level?!

No matter what was going on in my life my grades were always the part of my life I could rely on, a firm foundation, but suddenly that foundation was pulled out from beneath my feet. I didn’t really try hard in school, particularly during my GCSE’s, but I still got good grades. This left me with a very lazy attitude regarding my schoolwork, I knew that I could do the bare minimum and still succeed in whatever area I was studying in. As a consequence of this when I started my ‘A’ levels things went a bit downhill, note to younglings, you CANNOT be lazy during your ‘A’ levels! It finally hit me halfway through my final year of ‘A’ levels that my former strategy towards school was catastrophically failing me. As a result, after exam season finished, I received my grades… they were bad. This left me with a pit in my stomach, my whole life I had aimed and been pushed towards University; my dream of a degree was drifting away, like how in the animated film ‘Ice Age’ the character Scrat (the prehistoric squirrel) is so close to the nut in heaven to then get pulled further and further away from it. While everyone else was receiving their University offers, I’d heard nothing, nada, zilch. Then came the replies from the universities… rejection, rejection, rejection one after another until I only had one left; Winchester. Winchester had been my first choice, it was close, I liked the campus and it was in association with my secondary school. Then the notification came in another rejection and with it went my final chance.

I was stuck, confused, angry and upset. In my hole of self-pity, I turned to the only one I could, God. There’s one thing I feel when everything else is going wrong, hope. The hope that’s got me through so much was the thing I was going to cling onto until I knew where God wanted me to go. So, I prayed. And prayed. And prayed. The same prayer, “not my will, but yours”.  PING! An email comes up on my phone from Winchester… it was my offer for a foundation year in history starting September 2018. I was so happy that I had a University offer, but I had to make another decision. I had planned to take a gap year in South Africa at LIV Village, but this offer was for 2018. I prayed one last prayer and accepted the foundation year.

At first, the idea of a foundation year left me very conflicted. Was I not smart anymore? I was suddenly questioning my intellect, which I considered an integral part of who I was. While my friends were starting their first years at high-level universities, I was starting my foundation year. This situation hit my ego, pride, and identity all in one blow. However, my Dad gave me some very simple but good advice; “Sometimes you just have to suck it up and do what you have to do, you might not like it but to get where you want to be in life you have to do the extra year.” He was right, I had the opportunity to study my favourite subject when at one point I didn’t think going to University would be an option anymore.

So, it began; for my first semester, I not only got to learn about History but had opportunities to expand my knowledge in other areas. For example, I was taught how to create an academic poster as well as being able to learn how to be a better presenter, I love being in front of a room of people. The first semester also had a module called ‘How to be an entrepreneur’; now I’d always assumed that business was not my forte, however, this module grew a love for business in me, so much that I have now created my own business! The rest of the year provided chances for me to work with Winchester Cathedral, earn the Duke of York ‘Bronze’ and ‘Silver’ awards, and learn lots more awesome history! Being at University also meant I found out about UCCF’s work in Ukraine and was able to go out there myself. During my time there I could clearly see God working during and after the camp. I was even able to help with a project that aids children with Autism in Ukraine which meant a lot to me as my brother is Autistic. My foundation year also gave me the chance to meet so many amazing people, new friends that I treasure and look up to (literally and figuratively… I’m 5’2”). I met my now boyfriend who not only came to Christ 2 weeks into university but also came with me to Ukraine to spread the word of Jesus. Seeing him grow in his faith this year has made the foundation year even better!

At the beginning it was hard to see where God was at the start of this journey but looking back over the past year it is so obvious to see. God also blessed me with humility; humility in how I serve him and also humility within myself. I learned to squash my pride and my ego, and that when I focus solely on him, he is my foundation and he blesses me. I wouldn’t change doing a foundation year, it has helped me grow academically, mentally and emotionally. So, if you receive your results this summer and they aren’t quite what you expected or wanted, try saying a little prayer and trust God. He knows exactly what he’s doing and if you trust him, he will put you in the place he wants you to be, the place you are meant to be.

Phoebe Arnold