My Woodhouse Politics

Cosob Awil
Cosob Awil
Cosob Awil came to Woodhouse from Hornsey School for Girls and lives in Enfield. She studied politics, history and English literature at A level and graduated in 2018 with A*BB. She is now at SOAS studying International Relations and History.
She spoke to us during her second year of A levels at Woodhouse... 
“Politics is a subject ingrained in everything and it’s hard not to engage with it. It’s so important in our society that I felt I had to study it at A level.
I’m a product of globalization. I’ve got an EU passport, having been brought up in Denmark, and my family are from Somalia – so literally, my whole identity is made up of bits of politics from here and there. My parents fled the war in Somalia, but we moved from Denmark to England when I was 10 years old because of issues such as their right-wing government and racism. Now I live here in London and I watch the news and am up to date with Jeremy Corbyn, Labour and the Conservatives – so I think politics is in everything you do, and makes up your identity.
My GCSE subjects were ones where I had to follow the curriculum and learn what everyone else is learning and they were not subjects that massively interested me… But with politics – it’s my interests that I get to write about and what is going on today. For instance, in class, when we talk about the EU and Brexit it’s a very personal issue for me because I’m not a British citizen, I don’t even have residency here, I’m here as an EU citizen from Denmark. And when we discuss globalization, I’ve seen it first hand when I go back home to Somaliland (which isn’t even recognized as a country yet) and see Coca Cola cans strewn everywhere and yet no one speaks a word of English or has ever been to America. I like to discuss current affairs and that’s something you don’t really get to do at GCSE.
It’s drilled into us from the beginning to ‘watch the news, subscribe to different articles, make sure you read, and have a news app on your phone’ because you must keep up to date with current events.
Classes are very discussion based and you are often prompted to give your own ideas and think deeply about them. At my previous school, when we spoke about politics we were all like-minded, there was just a handful of us. Now I’m thrust into a class with a UKIP supporter here, Tories over there… And I’m a strong Labour supporter, but even within Labour you’ve got Corbynites and those that hate him... A lot of us are very stubborn individuals and can clash heads but it’s very good to discuss things and get your ideas challenged and that happens every lesson in politics – I’ve had my views shifted and questioned a lot of times. But fundamentally we have an underlying respect for each other, despite our contrasting views.
One thing’s for sure, you’ll develop your speaking skills here. I’ve always been pretty confident with speaking, but I’ve seen progression in many of my classmates who, in the beginning, didn’t speak up much. People stumble over their words and sometimes make things up, but that’s OK, it’s a politics lesson not a science lesson – there is no right and wrong. Politics is opinion based and your whole essay can be you writing your own opinion and backing it up with evidence – the only way you will go wrong is if you have no evidence, but your opinion can never be wrong.
I can speak to the teachers here anytime about current news events. We have that relationship where you can discuss things, and that only works when teachers are available. It’s not just a curriculum based subject, you develop your ideas as events occur and there’s always a teacher willing to chat to you about it. is a very helpful website run by our teacher, any resources you didn’t get from class or that you need for your research are on there, and our Head of Politics retweets interesting articles about all things political. Social media is where politics happens now – government policies come out through social media these days.
We do great stuff outside of class too. We went on trip to the Houses of Parliament and got to look around, and spoke to the people who created our syllabus text book. We’ve had great guest speakers… The NUS president, people talking about Islamophobia. The Black Lives Matter speaker was very memorable, talking about their campaign and what they do in America. At the end, there was a bit of heated debate between the politics students and the visitors, and it was interesting to see how we interact not just with each other, but with learned visitors – people who have gone through real things in life.
You learn here in a multitude of ways, which helps you build the foundations of your knowledge, which is what we are here for. I think the speakers and the extracurricular resources available are what helped me to get my A grade.
I started a society here, the Somali Society, so Somali students could come together and help each other with work or just discuss different topics and stuff, but it became much more than that – by the end of the year we had a big classroom with about 60 students, of which about 20 were Somali but the rest from other places. We started off discussing issues like the drought and whether it was the responsibility of the Somali diaspora to go back and help, but as the group grew we went beyond that to discuss wider issues like ‘Are tribes more detrimental than helpful?’ and ‘Is the western way of living a utopian way that we all need to adopt?’ The society was good at bringing about a sense of culture, and a place where all students could come together and give their opinions and things.
I also took part in the Model United Nations at Woodhouse. I was on the security council for Ukraine and at first was a bit reticent, but I made the most of it and tried to take on all the big countries like Russia and Israel. We embodied what our nations wanted, not from a personal perspective but from what the Ukrainians want. It was fun and Ukraine did well, we got the best delegates award.
The Debating society, a college organized extracurricular activity, was another great opportunity and I made friends with lots of people who weren’t in my subjects and may not have talked to otherwise. It’s human nature to become friends with people who have a shared interested and all of these activities provided a platform for that to happen.
I’m applying to study Politics and International Relations at degree level. I’m applying to Cambridge, London School of Economics and King's College London – and there’s plenty of support. I hadn’t intended to apply for Cambridge but my politics teacher said, ‘There’s this really interesting course at Cambridge that I think you’d enjoy’, and after looking it up I decided maybe I should actually go for it.
It’s good that at Woodhouse they tell you all your options – that’s very helpful to students like me who are first generation university applicants. Teachers help you with personal statements, mock interviews, group interviews and exams to give you the best possible chance of getting in.
After uni? I don’t know, but I do want to work in international relations through diplomacy or non-governmental organisations, and not stay in the UK but move out into Europe and eventually return to my homeland of Somaliland to live out my days – I have family there.
In my first year, my priorities weren’t great and I had to work to catch up, but now in my second year I’ve made sure to get off to a good start, have an organized timetable, and know ‘OK, it’s time to work’.
Overall, What I enjoy here is that there’s such a mix of students and I’ve made friends who have had very different experiences to me. I’ve developed my study and organization skills, but I’ve also developed as a person.”