From stage to page – an alternative path to University


Before coming to Cambridge, Dion spent several years working in the theatre industry and completing a theatre production qualification in Bristol. Prior to that, Dion was in Birmingham studying Ancient History. Dion made the move to apply to Cambridge for their undergraduate degree in English with the hopes of restarting a career in the field of academia. Dion will graduate this year (2024) and plans to move on to complete a master’s degree next.  


Can you tell us about your personal journey to Cambridge and what life for you looked like before you joined the University?  

I was working backstage in theatre production in Bristol and London and completing a DipHE in Production Arts at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. I decided during this degree, which was completed in the COVID-19 pandemic, when it looked like theatres weren’t going to reopen for some time, that I wanted to return to a pursue more seriously academia.  


Why did you choose to study at St Edmund’s College? 

I chose St Edmund’s College because I had poor A Level results, and so no other college would have considered me. I contacted the admissions team at Eddie’s and asked if I could provide for them some recent academic work, since my academic record stopped at the age of 18, which was several years prior and not to the standard I believed myself capable of. The team assured me that I could submit two recent essays, and that they would base the academic component of my application on that. So, I applied. 


What motivated you to choose your field of study?  

I’ve always loved literature, like a cliché, and I knew that I wanted to learn more about literary and art theory. I’d like to go into criticism – that’s actually part of why I left theatre. I thought that a lot of the shows I saw mis-read or read the plays differently from my reading, and that variety interested me. The Cambridge course offers a massive range of literature – it isn’t perfect, by any means, but it’s vast and that gives it a sense of completeness which I wanted to have access to. 


Can you share a memorable experience from your time at St Edmund’s College so far that has had a significant impact on you?  

In my first year, I was the Bar Steward for a period of six months, during which time I was faced with the difficulty of navigating a series of incredibly busy nights in the bar. It’s an entirely volunteer, student-run bar, and so I had a lot of meetings with the college Domestic Bursar and Head Porter, during which time we had to agree on what was whose responsibility with regards to security and crowd control. It taught me how to deal with difficult conversations, but also how to stand up for the staff who were unpaid and not responsible for those things. It also taught me that I am a capable manager and leader, a skillset which is incredibly valuable for many reasons. Sometimes, the proof is in the doing. 


Are there any professors, mentors, or classmates who particularly inspire or influence you? If so, how are they impacting your personal or professional development?  

In my final year, I’ve had the privilege of taking a couple of very theory-heavy modules under the care of Dr Ross Wilson at Emmanuel College and Dr Louis Klee at Trinity Hall College. They’ve been incredibly influential and inspirational when it comes to understanding what aspects of literature and theory I want to pursue in my career, and what sort of positions I’d like to take up. The value of being at Cambridge is that you’re able to work on an almost peer-to-peer basis with some of the best scholars in the world. There’s something incredibly humbling and exciting about being taught by people with such vast banks of knowledge. 


How has attending St Edmund’s College enabled you to thrive? Can you share a project, research endeavour, or extracurricular activity you are involved in that you find especially rewarding or impactful?  

My time involved in the CR committee saw my hand in many projects, events, and charity drives throughout my first and second years. This included helping to organise Fresher’s Week in 2022, which was a resounding success for welcoming the new students. I was also responsible for a large budget and the management of the bar after a period of difficulty, in which time I raised the bar’s profits from £10,000 to £25,000 and saw to instigating processes of reinvestment for the money back into the student body.  


Aside from the CR duties, I have found Eddie’s a deeply welcoming and wonderful community. I have made some of my closest friends here; the variety of people at Eddie’s is matched by no other college in Cambridge, and it makes the environment so excellent for personal and interpersonal development. I think that I have grown massively as a person whilst at Eddie’s, and that I would not have enjoyed my time at Cambridge anywhere near as much had I not been at this college.  


What values are you learning at St Edmund’s College and how do you think your experiences at Cambridge are shaping you as a person?  

I have learned more humility, introspection, and how much I genuinely value the company and input of others. I think that time at Eddie’s has made me a better person. 


What are your plans beyond graduation and how do you see them contributing to a better future for individuals, societies and the world globally?  

I am currently applying to a research Master’s degree at the University of York, to contribute to their Centre of Narrative Studies. My long-term aim is to contribute to cultural criticism and discussions surrounding current crises of art, literature, and theory. I would very much like to assist in the fight for the value of the Arts and Humanities in the education system, which are chronically undervalued and underfunded despite their massive importance for empathetic and artistic development. 


What advice would you give prospective students thinking of choosing St Edmund’s College?  

I would say do it! Eddie’s isn’t the richest college, but it is the warmest. The community makes it such a wonderful place to be, and I cannot recommend enough being a part of that community. It’s a college which has also seen massive growth over the past few years, and this seems only to be increasing as time goes on.  


Do you want to study English at St Edmund’s College? Find out more on our course pages.