Monday 5 January 2004, A level Year 2, Surrey, England

Despite having the online UCAS system, the Oxbridge decision would first come back in the post. Maybe that was just the tradition—Oxbridge, and pretty much the rest of the UK, highly valued traditions. The two universities conducted their interviews in early December and finalized the decisions shortly after. But due to the heavy volume of letters, cards and gifts being posted before Christmas, the envelopes would only arrive afterwards.

Even though once the envelope was received, it was a simple matter of opening it to see the result, plenty of theories were developed regarding to the meaning of the envelopes themselves. One school of thought suggested the college posted acceptance letters ahead of rejections. If you didn’t get anything in the post in the first couple of days after Boxing Day, it was game over. Another theory put the emphasis on the colour of the envelope with the rationale that it would stop the results from being mixed up in the admission office. And there was of course the universal theory that a small envelope would mean rejection while a big envelope would contain the good news and further instructions.

Being an international student spared me from all the worries from receiving and opening the envelopes. With no UK home address, my result was sent to the school instead. The school was of course closed during the whole Christmas holiday so no one would know what was inside till today—the first day of the spring term.

Last night, the night when we arrived back at the boarding house but could not go to the main school yet was one of the longest night in my memory. I kept wondering what kind of news would be waiting for me. This morning, those who went for Oxbridge interviews all sat quietly on the school bus. As soon as it pulled over in the school car park, we all jumped down and shot towards the school secretary’s office.

“Congratulation, you got in, Trinity College, Cambridge!”

Really, did I hear that right? I got an offer from Cambridge? Did the light bulb do just enough shining before it went dark on the day? Or maybe the interview finished early enough before the Professor realized I was about to change my answer yet again.

After I jumped up and down the room with excitement and disbelief, I thanked the school secretary for the good news. And I bid my farewell by asking the most important question: “Mrs, I know it doesn’t matter but did you still have the envelope by any chance so that I can see its colour and size?”