Overcoming adversity, A-Level U-turns and coping with anxiety are all challenges which Moby Wells (History 2019) has faced, even before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Moby’s story is one of perseverance and resilience and intrinsic desire and motivation. Although formally sets did not exist, his SATs results in Year 6 meant that he was in a lower academic stream at the start of secondary school. He worked as a cleaner at school during sixth form to earn money efficiently and support the community. And he missed his offer for the University of Cambridge, a re-mark exposing an error which saw him claim his place at Gonville & Caius College.
“When I got my results, I missed my grade for English and didn’t understand how it was possible – I had been working at A, A* level,” Moby says.
“Everything was up in the air. I didn’t get into my insurance, but did get into Lancaster, which I really loved.
“I had my English re-marked and they took a long time to come in. They gave me an extra 64 marks! I went from a B to an A*. I think what probably happened was they missed out pages; they were probably stuck together.
“That caused so much stress and even when I found out I burst into tears and thought Cambridge wouldn’t let me in. Thankfully they did.
“I completely empathised with the A-Level U-turn (in summer 2020) as I knew exactly how it felt.”
Moby is from Norfolk, Caius’ link area, but he had not initially chosen the College – he says he made his selection by “lucky dip”. He was selected by Caius through the pool, where applicants can receive an offer from an alternative college if not selected by their chosen institution.
The real difficulty followed with the results, and Moby had settled on Lancaster, only to finally be accepted to the University of Cambridge and Caius two weeks prior to starting. It meant he had to play catch up, but his Director of Studies, Dr Melissa Calaresu, provided practical and emotional support.
“It was so nice to have that link so I didn’t feel like even more of an imposter,” Moby adds.
“It has worked out well. There’s a lot of Caius historians, so there’s already this community and there’s loads of books in the library.”
The sense of ‘imposter syndrome’ is familiar to many students. For Moby it might be traced to his move to Hethersett High School, now Hethersett Academy, and Years 7 and 8, after his SATs results.
“It felt as though in many of my lessons I was the only one who wanted to learn. I remember going home really upset,” he says.
He was moved up in Year 9 and did well at his GCSEs before moving to Wymondham High. Alongside his A-Levels in History, English and Classics – made possible by hard-working teachers determined to defy the subject’s stereotype – he worked as a cleaner for six hours a week after school.
Moby says: “I had that time allotted so it meant I had to do my school work around it. That made me more efficient.”
Moby finds similar regularity in the Caius Allotment Society, which he founded along with Fellow Dr Lisa Kattenberg. The allotment society, which meets on Sundays at K Block on West Road, has boosted Moby’s confidence as he shares knowledge gleaned from his parents, both horticulturalists, in a community endeavour which it is hoped will supply the College kitchen.
“It’s a magical combination of getting outdoors, active and being with people, and away from work,” Moby says.
“To know that I’ve made something that people value, and people listen to stuff that I say, has really improved my confidence.
“I want it to be something that continues in years to come.”
Moby does have moments of doubt, still, but believes his experiences have helped. He adds that the intensity of the term can, perversely, help, as it is important to move on, with weekly essays routine.
“I remember in my first week of Cambridge, they said ‘most of you will never have failed in a big sense beforehand and the only time you may find obstacles is in struggling to find a job’,” he says.
“I’d already gone through the results issue, which in a way brought it home. There are times I do struggle and mentally suffer because of a fear of failure, but it’s about distracting myself.
“Maybe I didn’t do very well in that essay, but at least I set up an allotment.”