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Wednesday, September 18th, 2013 at 5:54 pm
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Edinburgh Student Inspired by Iceman

An archaeology student at Edinburgh University has won a national writing competition after describing how her fascination with an ancient iceman got her hooked on the subject. Elena Chabo wrote eloquently of her ‘childhood excitement’ for her subject in the essay, revealing she was in her element  with ’trowel in hand’.

The UCAS/Times writing competition challenged students to describe their passion for learning at degree level, explaining why they chose their subject and their experience of immersing themselves in study. Over 2,500 entries were received and judged by a panel of academic experts, with the overall winner being chosen by David Willetts, Universities and Science minister.

Mary Curnock Cook, UCAS’ Chief Executive, said, “This competition gave thousands of students the chance to express an unabashed passion for their degree course. It was clear from reading over 2,500 entries that the brain-stretch and personal development through higher education was often more important to the writers than any future influence on their finances.

“The winning entry by Elena Chabo was the work of a young woman whose dedication to archaeology was evident in every paragraph. It is impossible not to feel inspired by reading about Elena ‘hunting for remains and piecing together clues’ or by her description of the moment her subject ‘found’ her. She tells us:

“Then I found my hook. Iceman Otzi died 3300 BC, his frozen body so well preserved I can tell you red deer was his last supper. His pelvis shows he liked long hilly walks and his skin bears over fifty tattoos. Did HE consider how they’d look at seventy? Or for that matter, at five thousand three hundred and thirteen? Relating brought it alive!”

“The quality of Elena’s expression and her advocacy for higher education were superb. Her conclusion that ‘when you give it your all and study amongst incredible minds, that childhood excitement takes hold’, perfectly catches the mood we hoped this competition would uncover.

“All four category winners gave us special insights into the pure pleasure of studying at a higher level, variously bringing us the beauty of maths, the thrill of legal debate, and the enlightenment to be found in studying Classics.”

Elena said, after scooping the top prize of £5,000, “I fear that I may have just peaked; I’m not quite sure how I’m ever going to top this win!”

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said, “This competition proves that higher education transforms people’s lives. The entries took very different paths but they all reflected a passion for learning.”

Elena is the overall winner, after initially winning the business and vocational category. She wins £5,000, plus a day at The Times newspaper, and a six month digital subscription to The Times. She will have her winning entry published on The Times online.

All of the winning entries can be read in full on the UCAS website.

Adam Dark from Canterbury Christ Church University,  George Pearson from Durham University, and Patrick Gilbert from the University of St Andrews won the other three categories for their efforts describing their time studying Law, Classics and Mathematics respectively. They each win £3,000 plus The Times prizes.

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