Faculty of Arts

Calvin Medcalf, past Foundation Arts student

Calvin stands in a seminar room wearing a checked shirt and smiling as he receives an award from Lady Greenaway

Calvin talks to us about making a difference during a pandemic and how support from the Foundation Arts team has helped him succeed in his studies.

The transition to uni life

"People always tell you that the transition to uni life is hard and I found that was definitely true for me. I worried about it beforehand as I took a gap year and didn't have amazing A level grades so I was a little out of practice when I started. I felt like I'd struck gold by being lucky enough to come to Nottingham even though I was a little rusty. But once I started easing myself into it the process things became much easier mostly due to an amazing support network.

People always tell you that the transition to uni life is hard and I found that was definitely true for me.

I had support networks in two areas, there were friends I made on foundation course (some of whom I actually live with now!) and the foundation staff. Peter and Doug were my two lecturers during the foundation year and they are genuinely lovely, lovely guys. They interviewed me for the course and gave me the opportunity to explain where I was coming from, they were so kind and helpful, I'll always be thankful that I had their support. Whenever I had a problem, any time of the day, I could email them or come to their office and they would chat to me. That isn't something that's isolated to me, that's something that they would do for anyone on the foundation year, which I think is what makes it such a good programme."

On Imposter Syndrome

"I think that imposter syndrome is something that many people feel at university, I know I certainly did. My A level grades weren't awful, but they weren't as good as they could have been, so when I spoke to other students who gained all As or A*s I felt that I'd got into Nottingham by luck. But by chatting to other people on my course I realised we were all in a similar boat and we developed a really tight knit friendship group. I came to understand that I wasn't the only one here who might feel a bit out of place and the whole foundation year is essentially a year to help you cope better with university life.

I came to understand that I wasn't the only one here who might feel a bit out of place.

Now that I'm in my second year (of American and Canadian Studies with History BA) it is very rare for me to feel imposter syndrome, only occasionally at the beginning of a new module when you're meeting new people and starting a new subject. But now, having worked hard and achieving good grades I know I deserve my place here at Nottingham."

I won't let not-so-great A level grades hold me back at uni

"Despite arriving at Nottingham with less than perfect A level results I have gone on to achieve first class marks so far during my time at university. The catalyst for that change is not only the support networks, but also the variety of assessment methods. I admit that I hate exams! But I discovered that in essays I perform really well. Because the foundation year has a really wide variety of different assessments, you can find your niche and start to improve yourself. 

I was so proud when I started to achieve first class university marks, especially when my work was recognised at the Lady Greenaway awards. I won the award for academic excellence as I was the highest scoring person in the foundation year. It was presented at an awards evening which I attended with a group of friends from the course. 

My parents were so proud when I won the award, they could see how hard I'd worked, for the first year I commuted every single day to uni from Belper, catching the 7am train and pulled all-nighters."

On living at home during my first year

"It was hard to integrate myself into the university community whilst living at home, but there were quite a few other people in foundation doing it too so I wasn't alone. I joined some societies which really helped too. It was a pain having to worry about catching the last train so I couldn't join in the late night socials, but I found in foundation that didn't effect me too much. We were such a small class and the nature of the course means you spend all day together so it felt like hanging out with my friends all day. If we had a long break between lectures we'd just go and hang out, usually in someone's halls or I'd go to the library and catch up with some reading."

Making a difference during a pandemic

"Last March, as the country went down into lockdown students were starting to feel quite scared, nervous and lonely. No university in the country could have prepared for the situation. Many students decided to return home so some people were left on their own in houses or just with one other person. A friend of mine recognised this and we decided to do something about it.

Last March, as the country went down into lockdown students were starting to feel quite scared, nervous and lonely... we decided to do something about it.

That is how Communi-Tea was born. Communi-Tea is a group of people who wanted to meet others and connect over a cup of tea. It grew from a single Facebook Messenger chat group to multiple chats, various WhatsApp groups, a Facebook pagean Instagram account and I became the welfare secretary. Now we have a large group of people who join up for socials, games, movies or just a chat. I'm really pleased with what we achieved, people found it a massive help during lockdown and many friendships have been created that will last a long time."

Calvin's advice

"Go all out, university may not be the same as it was a few years ago, but it's up to us to make the most out of it. Get involved in societies; if you want to do sport, do a sport; if you've always wanted to get dressed up in full armour and reenact fights, just do it. This time is for you, do the most that you can. You'll never forget it."


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Arts and Humanities Foundation Year

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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telephone:0115 951 5559
email: artssupport@nottingham.ac.uk