After five rejections, Clearing gave international student Lena a chance to follow her dreams

As an international student, Lena Tosenberger, 22, knew her journey to academia in the United Kingdom would require more steps than her British-born peers, but she didn’t expect to be rejected by all of her five UCAS choices. However, she found a place on De Montfort University Leicester’s (DMU) English and Creative Writing course through Clearing and never looked back. This is her account of how she found her new home at DMU.
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I had always wanted to study English and Creative Writing. It felt like a dream scenario straight out of my fantasies – spending hours of my day reading, analysing and discussing novels, writing essays and fiction to demonstrate my knowledge, and conversing with experts in the field. However, I worried about the merit of an English degree.


Peer-pressured, I instead applied to my second and third course choices that were decidedly more employer-friendly to my 18-year-old self. I had five UCAS choices, and I filled them with variations of the theme: Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology.


I did not know then that many universities had set a cap on EU students in preparation for Brexit. I did not know that I would receive rejection emails for almost a month, each week a new one, and none of them with any explanation. I was crushed. I had excellent grades, I volunteered, I was a perfect candidate to study in the field, yet it had not mattered.


As five rejections stared at me, I saw an option named Clearing. I hadn’t known what it meant, but after a little research, I understood Clearing to be a chance I wasn’t aware of. A gift, in a way.


I looked up various universities, including those I had not heard of prior to sending in my applications. Through this research, I found out that DMU was one of the most sustainable universities in the United Kingdom, and after seeing its English department and what it specialises in, I was eager to apply.


Because of the timing of my rejections, I didn't have the time to be nervous about Clearing. I just felt lucky that I'd be able to come to university at all. Despite all the preparations I thought I had done, as I came from Croatia, I didn’t have the chance to visit the campus or attend an Open Day before I applied. However, I would definitely recommend that you do it if you can, as the first look at the campus is absolutely breath-taking.


Maybe English and Creative Writing was meant to be for me. I graduate this August, passing every single third-year module with a First, with a dissertation that I am beyond proud of, and a portfolio full of fiction and poetry in genres and forms I hadn’t known about before coming to university. I was a writer before I started my degree, but the amount of knowledge and experience I received from all different directions on my course made me realise that this is what I want to do.


Despite Covid-19, my university experience was beyond my expectations. All the lecturers were helpful both in academic and non-academic ways, and they provided a stable anchor as all our classes went online, and then slowly back to face-to-face. The best part of university for any student is not high-tech equipment, or modern buildings (both of which DMU has—have you seen our Vijay Patel Building?), but its amazing and hardworking lecturers who provide high quality teaching regardless of where they are teaching from. 

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Through this degree, I was able to put my work out there, publish a poetry collection that granted me the Stewart Giles Award and bursary, and perform on a radio show. I wouldn't have had these opportunities to showcase my writing had I done a different degree—and maybe I would have stopped writing entirely.


Looking back now, I cannot imagine myself studying Psychology. The passion I see in fellow Psychology and Sociology students is a completely different passion to the one I feel inside me. They study science. I study art. I now understand that both fields have their merits. To me, Clearing wasn’t a throw-away, last-ditch effort at studying anything; it shook me up as if to tell me, ‘If you don’t study what you love, there is no point in it at all.’


To anyone nervous about choosing a university through Clearing, or worried about moving away from your parents and living on your own: I cannot tell you not to be worried, because you will be worried regardless. But that worry is your fuel. It means you care so much that you wish more than anything to apply to the right university, to pick the right course, to plan for a future that is right for you. Use that worry, put it into research and find your place in the world.

Posted on Thursday 11 August 2022

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