I’m an international student and I applied to read English at Trinity College. Unfortunately, I was rejected post-interview but I did enjoy my Skype interviews so I thought I’d talk about them here in case anyone might find them useful!
First interview (Trinity College)
I was interviewed by two tutors and about 30 minutes before the interview I was sent two poems to read and annotate: White Heliotrope by Arthur Symons and Departure Platform by Thomas Hardy. Of course, I didn’t know who wrote the poems at the time. I printed out both poems and started annotating them hastily, scribbling all over the paper. I took note of any unusual or unique imagery, the tone, the form and structure (which also included the use of punctuation, something that was really interesting to talk about in these two poems!) and the overall main idea of the poem. It’s helpful to not only take note of any interesting use of language, but to also figure out what message the poem is trying to convey, what you think the poem is about.
After my pre-reading time was up, the college called me through Skype. First they checked my identity, making me show my passport details through the webcam. Then both tutors began the interview by asking me which poem I wanted to talk about first, and asking me to read the poem I chose out loud (I chose to talk about White Heliotrope first). After my somewhat awkward reading of the poem, they started by asking me: “what do you think the poem is about?”. A bundle of nerves, I talked about how I thought it was about the poet’s relationship with a loved one, and how it has changed and isn’t how it used to be. The tutors then asked me some follow-up questions about where I got that impression and asked me to point to specific lines in the poem. I elaborated further and expanded my answers, and the tutors asked more follow-up questions by pointing to specific lines like “a ghost of memory” and asking me what I thought it meant. For that particular line I talked about the connotations of both “ghost” and “memory” and the effects of the use of both words together (the connotations of certain words or phrases are also something to think about when you’re annotating!).
Then they moved on to Departure Platform, and asked me to read it aloud and asked me what I thought the poem was about and if there was anything interesting I wanted to point out. It was basically the same as the discussion on the previous poem, with me talking about what I found interesting and the tutors asking follow-up questions and building a discussion around the poem. Both tutors were really nice (which did calm me down quite a bit) and I quite liked both of the poems.
The second half of my interview was about my personal statement. They started it off by asking what my literary interests were and then mentioned some of the texts in my personal statement. I talked about Victorian literature when they asked about literary interests, talking about why I loved the genre, particularly about the mood and atmosphere evoked and the prevalent sense of duality or doubling used in Victorian gothics. They then asked me further questions about doubling and I linked it to texts I mentioned in my personal statement, saying that doubling enables authors to explore morality and conscience. It’s advisable to refresh your memory on anything you’ve said about the texts mentioned in your personal statement, especially what happens in those texts and anything interesting about them (e.g. characters, motifs, and themes).