• Tue. May 28th, 2024

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Academy’s first Oxford Uni student returns to share his experience

Joseph WoodsA student who became the first at his academy to win a place at Oxford University has returned to his old school to share his experiences as a first year undergraduate.

Joseph Woods was the toast of Bede Academy, in Blyth, last year for making history as its first successful Oxbridge candidate just six years after the academy opened.

Still just 18, Joseph was invited back to Bede as a special guest at the annual Presentation Day, which recognised with academic prizes students who may go on to follow in his footsteps.

His main message for students was to believe in themselves.

“Bede Academy was very supportive to me,” he said. “It provided me with the facilities and teaching to work hard and do what I knew I had to do.

“It’s very much about you as an individual and believing that you are capable of achieving. You can’t rest on your laurels. I thought if I was going to go for it then it had to be all or nothing.”

A self-confessed perfectionist Joseph, whose parents Julia and Terry live in Blyth, admits to being slightly disappointed with his A level results of an A* in mathematics and As in chemistry and further maths.

What is even more remarkable about his achievement is that he has done it whilst living with type one diabetes, which involves injecting himself with insulin before every meal, and competing with the university athletics and cross-country teams.

The sport provides a welcome relief to his chemistry degree which involves two hours of lectures every weekday morning followed by class work, a tutorial or up to six hours of laboratory work in the afternoons.

As well as chemistry, he has occasional classes in maths and physics.

“It’s been very fast paced, there’s no stopping once you’re on the course. It’s been a massive step-up from A levels,” says Joseph, who’s proved he is on track gaining a 2:1 in his first year exams.

“Each term lasts only eight weeks, which isn’t particularly long but they cram a lot in. It’s full on and you have to accept that some weeks you’ll be working without a break.

“At first it was a shock but I adapted very quickly. During Freshers’ Week I spent most of the time in the library instead of going out.

“It’s definitely the right course for me. If you enjoy what you do it makes it a lot easier. They don’t just want intelligent people at Oxford, they want people who they know are going to work hard.”

Since arriving in Oxford, Joseph has made friends from around the world and says, as a boy from the North East, he has never felt out of place.

“I never really worried about going there and mixing. It’s such a diverse community and I think it’s harder for people who come from other countries than me. Everyone is really friendly. There’s no social divide, it’s a very communal place.”

Back home for the summer holidays, he says he has been too busy to think too much about Blyth, although he says he does miss family and walking his dog.

During his first year Joseph lived in St Peter’s College but next year is sharing a house with boys from Wales, Germany and Kent, who are on a range of courses from history to medicine.

He has also met two students from Bede’s sister school, Emmanuel College, in Gateshead.

After four years at Oxford, including a final year doing research, Joseph believes he may continue in a research role.

His advice for students, including his sister Georgina who takes her GCSEs at Bede Academy next year, is to choose courses they enjoy.

“Georgina shouldn’t feel any pressure. She’s very bright and I hope she does better than me,” he said.

“You have to be prepared for university being a big step up from A levels but as long as you enjoy what you do and are willing to work hard, there’s no reason other students from Bede can’t get to Oxford and other top universities.

“Going for the interview can be daunting but once you get through you get used to the idea of going there very quickly. It is the real deal so you have to make the most of it.”

By admin