Our 2012 Summer Scholars write about their experiences of Oxford Royale Academy
Dina from Serbia, a Scholar on Oxford Royale Academy's Medical Preparation Programme, reviews her summer programme in Oxford
Never before could I imagine how magnificent and great an impact a two-week course can have on the lives of young adults. It was no ordinary two weeks though, rather a time of self-exploration, broadening horizons, inspiring multiculturalism, intellectual debates and new challenges, all combined with an astonishingly rich history and tremendous architecture of Oxford. This precious and memorable fortnight was an Oxford Royale Academy summer course.
Situated in the “City of dreaming spires” in the beautiful buildings of Balliol College, among the oldest colleges of Oxford University, I was enthused by the unique opportunity of living a life and experiencing the daily routines of an Oxford University student. The tours of Oxford with interesting and friendly tour guides, visits to Christ Church and Magdalen College, the Natural History Museum, stories about the extremely vivid history of the city, which has always battled between town and gown, revealed to me how stimulating and intellectual environment Oxford is indeed. Throughout the entire course I was deeply bonded by everything I saw, for the very first time, and was constantly eager to improve in classes, teamwork, sports and future plans.
The academic lessons have provided me with a crucial support for the university application process and familiarized me with the UCAS application form and different medical degrees in the United Kingdom. Moreover, we prepared for complex Oxbridge interviews and we were taught how to make an essential difference between a pretentious, a modest and the perfect interview performance.
The workshops were slightly more diverse since we had spaces to socialize and make new friends, while completing our group tasks and striving to achieve good scores. One of the most exciting and appealing classes was the one when we were given The Apprentice challenge and discussed the importance of having a firm leader. They have remarkably helped me on my path to become a productive member of society and hopefully, a successful adult.
Every moment spent with Oxford Royale Academy was purposeful, enjoyable and beneficial. No hour was in vain, since even at weekends we had organized parties, talent shows and excursions such as the trip to wonderful Blenheim Palace, the place where Sir Winston Churchill spent his childhood. It was a great honour to walk down those amazing halls. Most fascinating were famous Churchill quotations and speeches which were written on the posters. I was also impressed immensely by the famous bookstore “Blackwells”, where all the students from a variety of courses could discover something in their field of interest, and I adored spending hours exploring it all over again. In our free time we also had time to visit restaurants, cafes and experience Oxford and England in our own particular way.
Nevertheless, what makes this course so marvelous is the opportunity to meet people with different backgrounds from all over the world, to make new friendships and establish close bonds between one another, understand how to live as an independent and responsible individual in a vibrant community, discover distinct cultures, share opinions and experiences and learn continuously. I cannot fully describe how delighted and grateful I am for this life experience, it has solidified my interest in UK medical schools, fuelled my ambition to go beyond what I have previously considered my boundaries, developed my personality, granted me with treasured friendships and an adventurous summer of my dreams.
Laaibah from Pakistan, a Scholar on Oxford Royale Academy's New Perspectives Programme, reviews her summer programme in Oxford
The moment I entered St Peter's College, which was to be my home for the next two weeks, I knew that I was going to have the time of my life there. The entire experience, as a whole, was no less than life changing. All my 'new place' apprehensions were erased by the extremely amiable counsellors; one even carried my very heavy bag all the way up to my room in the top floor! Accommodation was awesome; my room was literally luxurious!
As for lessons, the subject module I chose was the challenging duo of British History and Politics and International Relations. Being a native Pakistani, I had absolutely no idea about these, but that's why I chose them: to learn something new. At first I was tense, about whether I'd understand the lesson or not. But actually, these lessons were the best thing that ever happened to me! The teachers were so well informed about what they were teaching. The material that they taught was very interactive, interesting and much fun.
Normally, in class, I'm very hesitant to speak up even if I knew the answer; perhaps due to the fact that I might be made fun of, or be scolded by the teacher. But here, I learnt to speak whenever I could because my opinion was greatly appreciated and praised by the teacher as well as my fellow students. Being in a cosmopolitan, multicultural environment helped us learn a lot about the world, and made us feel proud to represent our respective countries. At the end, I was ecstatic to receive the "Outstanding Effort and Attainment Award" in my subjects. My favourites were the afternoon workshops of Acting and Performance Skills. We used to do such fun vocal warm-ups of Buddhist chants and African dances! We used to laugh profusely. I was chosen to perform on graduation day; it was my first performance in front of an audience and I nailed it! Everyone applauded loudly and later praised me for my excellent acting. I was overjoyed.
The tours, activities and excursions contributed to making it a once in a lifetime experience. Well informed professors took us all around the city of dreaming spires, giving us interesting facts wherever we went. My favorite was the ghost trail: in which a man named Bill Spectre took us on an eerie tour to the spooky side of Oxford: telling us myths and legends about creepy happenings, all the while delighting us with cool tricks!
We were taken on many excursions. To North Leigh villa where we enjoyed a picnic under the sun, Bicester Village, containing outlet malls of fancy brands (a shopper’s heaven), London Science Museum, where we were amazed at the things science had achieved, followed by a delicious 3 course dinner at Pizza Express, and my favorite Warwick Castle where we had lots of photos taken, witnessed the legendary trebuchet fire and climbed all the way to the top of the tower and savored the view. We even got caricatures made as funny souvenirs!
The activities planned were truly unbelievable: something which we definitely don't have a chance to experience back home: quiz nights, drumming, flamenco dance, urban dance or perhaps just a relaxing movie to help unwind from the days stress. The parties were even better where we got a chance to groove to our favorite beats, let go of all worries and just enjoy the moment.
Above all, I made such great friends from all over the world; it seemed as if we had known each other for so many years! We got to exchange information about our countries’ history, geography and culture. They were amazed to discover that I was a national spelling bee champion and had learnt the whole Oxford dictionary by heart!
In a nutshell, I would just like to say that Oxford Royale Academy gave me a chance to have the time of my life: they were the best two weeks of my entire life! I got to do things that someone from an underdeveloped country like Pakistan could only dream to do. I made friends for life and got a whole new personality: bursting with confidence. It was certainly an honor and privilege to be selected for full scholarship to ORA and I shall always cherish the memories of my time there. Thank you so much Oxford Royale Academy!
Usama from Pakistan, a Scholar on Oxford Royale Academy's Broadening Horizons Programme, reviews his summer programme in Oxford
ORA promised to broaden my horizons. ORA promised to make me think beyond my boundaries. ORA promised a summer of learning. A summer of fun. A summer of getting to know what Oxford is all about. And ORA delivered.
I'll start with the city itself. We lived at St. Catherine's College, the youngest undergrad college at Oxford, located at a convenient 15-minute walk from the city centre. Each morning, we used to trek across the High Street to attend our classes at the Magdalen College School, walking past landmarks such as the Magdalen Tower and the Botanic Gardens every single day! Being such a small city, navigation in Oxford was immensely easy - so much so that a couple of days into the course, we were able to make a quick detour to the local Sainsbury's or Subway, grab a cookie, gobble it down and still make it to class on time! On workshop-free afternoons, there was no dearth of shopfronts to pore over. In fact, there was barely enough time to witness a slice of the treasures offered by Oxford. As if the sheer variety of shops on High Street and Broad Street wasn't enough, winding alleys led to the Covered Market - the true essence of Oxford shopping. Here, amidst a dedicated hat shop and a butcher, were hidden two of Oxford's most well known jewels - Ben's Cookies and Moo-Moo's Milkshakes! You'd certainly be hard-pressed to sample a better cookie or milkshake elsewhere.
Moving on to the classes, I can honestly say that I wasn't expecting much to come out of 10 classes over a 2-week period but boy, was I wrong! It took around ten minutes in total for the class to get to know each other and the teacher before we went off in pursuit of perfection. Unbounded by the norms and deadlines of regular school, we explored topics none of us had ever encountered before and were unlikely to do so again. My favourite, without a doubt, was Creative Writing. We were a small group of eight and it was an immensely enriching experience to analyse historical works and pass judgements on each others' writing - under the watchful guidance of Mr Stuart Thomson.
The workshops we had thrice each week were equally productive. I took up Public Speaking & Debate to counter my immense fear of addressing gatherings and just two weeks later, I walked out of the graduation ceremony with the 'Best Student' award for the workshop! It would probably take too long to describe all the various methods we employed during the 2-hour workshops but here is a taste of what we did: watching and analysing historical speeches, writing effective speeches in just seven minutes, 'quick debating', learning how to use various speaking techniques and formal 3-on-3 debates.
The academic portion of this course, however, is just a part of the story - it's when you have to 'juggle' homework with a circus party that you actually get to enjoy the experience. Following each and every morning of tiresome (but still fun!) classes, there was a world of activities to choose from - drumming, fencing, tennis, dance, football, punting, museum tours, guest lectures, debates, table tennis, film nights - you name it! 'Boredom', seemingly, is a concept that does not exist at Oxford.
And this was just everyday stuff; the three organised parties we had were on the next level - a Circus Party, a Masquerade Ball at the Ashmolean and a Carnival-themed extravaganza on Graduation night. The parties were not just there to provide breathing space after homework and were actually unique and inventive. For instance, who would have ever learned to ride a unicycle or juggle were it not for the Circus Party? The dance floor was also quite packed as teenagers from five different continents grooved together to summer hits; all worries forgotten.
The story, however, would not be complete without mentioning the excursions - three times during our course, coaches rolled in and took us off for three extremely memorable adventures. First, and probably the best, was the trip to London. We landed at Covent Garden and were given plenty of time to browse one of the most famed areas of the Olympics host city. We then had dinner at Pizza Express just around the corner before walking to the Dominion Theatre and witnessing one of the best musicals of all time - We Will Rock You. Based on world-famous hits by the band Queen, the show amazed us with it's awe-inspiring theatrical effects, the actors' superb performances and some of the best tunes on the planet. Worn-down after clapping and stamping to 'We Will Rock You' and waving to 'We Are The Champions', we got back to St. Catz well after midnight.
The next trip was on a weekend and to one of the most well-known tourist sites all over the world - Windsor Castle. We walked in the footsteps of 900 years of British history and explored the castle under sparkling English sunlight, witnessing treasures such as the State Apartments and Queen Mary's Dolls House. The final excursion took us first to North Leigh, where we had lunch amongst the remains of a centuries-old Roman Villa, and then to Bicester Village, where everyone went bargain-hunting to make the best out of the amazing outlet prices.
It is woefully hard - almost impossible - to summarise the experience of a lifetime in a few hundred words (even photos don't do the trick!) but, in the end, it boils down to all the small moments of joy and laughter - walking along the High Street with shopping bags swiveling in hands, cracking jokes about the Queen's guards, grabbing a muffin from the Alternative Tuck Shop, experiencing the magnitude of the Norrington Room for the first time, watching A Midsummer Night's Dream in Wadham College's backyard under the evening sun and stretching on the beanbags at the Marquee. To cut it short - if you want to spend a summer expanding your thinking, a summer that'll earn you a lifetime worth of enjoyment, laughter and friends, an experience that will make you rethink your own world - you can't go wrong with Oxford Royale Academy. They really do Broaden your Horizons - it ain't just fluff.