Introducing the seven pupils who’ve headed to Yale University for the Yale Young Global Scholars Programme


We’re pleased to announce that the first seven Seren students who’ve travelled to Yale University’s US campus in New Haven have arrived and are settling in to their home for the next two weeks.

The students will spend the next two weeks sampling life at one of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions.

They’ll join more than 1,500 other students from 126 countries and 50 US states on Yale’s Young Global Scholars Programme as part a new scholarship opportunity made possible through the Seren Network.

While there, they’ll take part in a rigorous academic programme led by world-leading academics in one of six areas, including International Affairs & Security, Frontiers of Science & Technology and Politics, Law & Economics.

The summer school has been made available to Welsh students thanks to a scholarship from Yale Young Global Scholars, funding from Welsh Government through the Seren Network, and sponsorship from 10 Welsh organisations.

The partnership has been established to broaden the academic horizons of Welsh students, giving them a taste of university life in the States.

We’ll be hearing lots more from them over the next two weeks, but here’s a glance at your first cohort of Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS), and their Seren Network hub.

Cardiff Seren hub:
1. Yousuf Bakshi
2. Carys Bill

EAS hub
3. Cassie de St Croix

RCT-Merthyr hub
4. Joseph Phillips

Carmarthenshire/Pembrokeshire hub
5. Tom Long

Vale of Glamorgan Hub
6. Emily Nanji

Swansea hub
7. Elli Rees

 

We caught up with Thomas Long from the Pembrokeshire/Carmarthenshire hub before he set off to Yale to find out what he was most looking forward to about the YYGS programme:

 

 

Open days: How to make the most of the experience

So, you’ve decided to attend an open day to check out your university of choice, but how do you make the most of the experience?

As this could be the place you spend the next three or four years of your life, it’s important to take the opportunity to try to learn as much as you can.

Here are some of the things you can do to maximise your open day experience:

  • Plan ahead Thorough planning will ensure you experience as much as possible on the day. Read our blog on why to attend and how to prepare for an open day for some useful tips.
  • Take control You might attend an open day alone or with parents or friends, but either way the experience should be about you, so it is important you set the agenda. If you are with parents or friends, listen to their advice and opinions but make sure they don’t take over by asking all the questions.
  • Go on a tour Probably the first thing you will want to do is tour the university to view the building and facilities and learn the layout. You can book on to an organised group tour, but you can also ask to see specific departments on your own.
  • Listen to talks or take a taster course Most universities will organise talks from subject leaders, while others will hold sample lectures or taster courses. These are well worth attending as they will give you an idea of what the staff, lectures and facilities will be like.
  • Meet staff and ask questions The university may organise meet and greet sessions, but if not there’s nothing stopping you asking to meet and speak to staff individually. Not only will this demonstrate your enthusiasm and make you stand out from your peers, it will also give you the chance to ask questions about the course or university.
  • Meet the students You might get to meet current students as part of a tour, but if not it’s well worth finding some yourself. Staff will be helpful but there are questions about student life that are better directed at those living it.
  • Make notes This will help you remember key facts and allow you to compare universities.
  • View the accommodation You will want to know how good the accommodation is and how far it is from the campus, so make time to view some different options while you are there.
  • Reflect and review After you have attended all your open days, take time to sit down and reflect on your visits and review your experiences, listing the positives and negatives of each. This will help you make a considered decision on your future.

More information and resources

Dr Jonathan Padley, Widening Participation Officer at Churchill College, Cambridge, gives his insight on how you can make the most of open days on our blog.

Former Seren student Miles Hermann gives his top tips for open days, also on our blog.

Other open day tips guides are available from Which? University, THE and UCAS.

open days - wednesday

Self-taught Russian Seren student shares her journey to Cambridge

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With exam season in full swing, we’ve spoken to one current Seren student whose story might inspire you during your study sessions.

Eve Vincent is a Seren pupil at NPTC in Neath, who has received an offer to study at Cambridge University next year.

Eve is studying for A-Levels in English Literature, History, French and the Extended Project, and she’s been offered a place at Cambridge to study French and Russian.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

“I’m the first person in my family to go to university, so the whole thing was very new to us all. I had lots of support from my family during the application process, but I still had no idea what to expect.

“I’ve always been mindful of the fact that I need to study hard if I want to do all the things I’d like to do and accomplish everything I’ve dreamt of doing, like being able to study and live abroad for example. I’ve always seen my education as a way of going beyond my small-town, working class upbringing.”

Why French and Russian?

“I’m obsessed with languages and I’ve loved French for a long time. I first developed a passion for Russian after a school history trip to Germany. We visited lots of historic monuments and many of them had Russian writing on them. I felt fascinated and intrigued by the language and was keen to be able to understand what all writing meant. I felt so inspired that decided to teach myself Russian.”

How did you teach yourself a new language?

“The internet has been so useful for me in the process of teaching myself Russian. I use lots of study apps, like ‘Memrize’, which I use to learn vocabulary. I also watch lots of Russian YouTubers, which is a fun way to learn a language.

“I use Skype and other online platforms and have made lots of Russian friends who I chat to regularly about our lives and about current affairs, to practice my language. I also like to send letters and postcards to the Russian friends I’ve made.

“Making friends is a great way to improve language skills and learn a lot about a culture. I find that I’ve been able to chat very easily to Russian people of my age because their humour is very similar to mine; Russians are very sarcastic. I’ve found that it’s been surprisingly easy to get along with them and I’ve got to know people whom I now consider my close friends.”

Why Cambridge?

“I went to lots of open days, including Oxford and Cambridge. I liked both but when I visited Cambridge in April 2017, just before my AS levels, I felt that I could really imagine myself living there. I think it’s so important to go to open days so you’re able to get a feel for a place.

“I visited lots of different Cambridge colleges, including Churchill College and Clare College, but Clare College was the one that made me feel most comfortable. It’s a relatively small college, and I think because of this, there’s a nice sense of community. I could see myself fitting in there.”

Tips for other students:

“Learning a new language can be very demoralising and demotivating to begin with; especially a language with a totally new alphabet. I had to get used to going back to basics and feeling like a child again! It’s a huge challenge and you have to be prepared to make errors, but it’s definitely worth persisting with.

“If you’re doing the extended project, or another similar extended essay, it can be a good idea to choose something you’re passionate about and something that you could talk about in potential university interviews. I chose ‘Russian Nihilism’ as my theme for my extended project. Not only did I find it fascinating but I thought it might help with my application to study Russian.

“I think reading as much as possible in the foreign languages you’re learning is one of the best ways to improve. I enjoy reading French and Russian books – I’m currently reading a French novel; Liaisons Dangereuses, by Laclos. It’s difficult, but I’m enjoying the challenge and I think it’s good preparation for university work.”

What are you excited for in the future?

“I’m hoping to go to France this summer. I want the chance to chat to locals and find out more about their way of life, so that I can gain a better understanding of French people and the French language. I’m excited to study languages at university and be with a whole cohort of modern linguistics who are just as obsessed with languages as I am! I’m also really looking forward to my third year abroad in Russia as I’ve never been before. My long-term dream is to be a polyglot – next on my list are Mandarin, Romanian and maybe Italian too!

“The Seren Network and my tutor at college have been a massive help to me on my journey through university applications. I was given mock interviews, which I found really useful. Even if you don’t know which questions or topics will be coming up, just getting used to an interview set-up and being able to talk about yourself is helpful. My tutor also gave me lots of extra books and helped me practice more advanced grammar beyond the school curriculum.”

russia

 

 

 

 

Studying abroad: Former Seren student Raphaelle Soffe on studying at Harvard

Raphaelle Soffe (2)

Former Seren student Raphaelle Soffe, from Ewloe, North Wales, is studying at Harvard University in the US.

Here she tells us about life at an Ivy League university…

How has your experience of studying at Harvard so far matched up with your expectations?

Harvard is an amazing place with endless opportunities. Professors are always easily accessible and there are a wide range of classes.

There is a very strong community feel, with freshmen (first-year students) all eating in the same food hall.

There are frequent social events and trips to anything from the Boston Symphony Orchestra to hiking in New Hampshire.

Harvard has far exceeded my expectations, and I am very much looking forward to what it has to offer for the next three years of my studies.

What do you think are the main differences between the US university system and that of the UK?

The US system encourages closer relations between students. Most freshmen (first years) share dorms, and social events focus on reinforcing these developing friendships.

I also benefit from being heavily involved in the international community. To help international students settle in, Harvard runs a Freshman International Program (FIP) in August before the start of classes.

Students from all over the world are brought together and then split into smaller FIP families, with upperclassmen (senior students) acting as “parents”.

Academically, the structure of my degree is far more flexible than in the UK. I don’t choose my main subject until the second year, and I have to satisfy ‘general education’ requirements that ensure you take classes outside of your concentration.

I intend to concentrate in Government, with a secondary focus in Economics, but last semester I took a class on Shakespeare and this semester I am taking an architecture class.

The main difference is the greater focus on extracurricular activities. On top of completing my degree, I write for the Times Higher Education, and freelance for the Harvard Political Review.

I also sit on the Harvard Political Union Executive Board as Co-Director of Discussions. My role involves inviting, and liaising with, famous politicians and economists. Recently I organised a trip to the British Consulate in Boston, and moderated the discussion with the British Consulate General Harriet Cross.

I am also a Research Assistant at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs to a Research Fellow. I am currently researching women’s voting habits across the world, and specifically the development of female suffrage in France.

The American system is perfect for me. Some people prefer a greater emphasis on academia, but Harvard offers that too. Harvard has the incredible ability to mean many things to many students. It fits the student; the student doesn’t fit Harvard.

What have been your university highlights so far?

My roommates are the reason why Harvard feels like home. We’re so close, we have chosen to live together for the next three years.

Through the highs and lows, they have been there for me, and I for them. They are the closest thing I have to family here.

I couldn’t possibly put into words just how important they are to me, and to my enjoyment of the Harvard experience.

What are your plans for the future?

Sometimes it is easy to forget those who are less fortunate than you. I have tried to keep focused on what I want to achieve.

In the future I intend to commit myself to helping others, maybe through politics or another avenue.

What would you say to Seren students who are currently considering applying to Harvard, or any other US university?

Go for it. Life only happens once, and you must always try to fulfil your potential.

It’s important you don’t apply to Harvard for the name, but for the opportunities it will provide you.

This applies across the board to all universities. Think in the long term; what university will help you satisfy your career and life ambitions?

Read how Raphaelle got accepted to Harvard in a previous blog she wrote for us.

 

 

 

How to deal with exam stress

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Darllenwch yn y Gymraeg

Whether you enjoy or endure them, for most students, exams are a fact of life.

And while each set of exams will bring its own pressures, A-levels can be particularly daunting, especially if your university place depends on achieving a good set of grades.

It’s perfectly natural to experience a certain degree of stress and worry around exam times, and for many students this can actually be a motivating feeling. For others, however, it can become overwhelming.

pexels-photo-52608

Here are some tips to dealing with stress during exams:

Recognise your stress

Firstly it is important to recognise when you are feeling stressed.

It might sound obvious, but it’s possible to become so focused on revision and exam preparation that you overlook the tell-tale signs of stress, which can include difficulty sleeping, feelings of anxiety or irritability and a loss of interest in other activities.

Talking about your feelings with a friend or family member can help, or speak to your teachers if you’re feeling overloaded.

Look after yourself

It’s more important than ever to look after yourself at exam time, which means eating healthily, sleeping well and exercising regularly.

Tempting though it is to break open the biscuits, try to avoid junk food and high-energy snacks and drinks such as chocolate and coffee, as these will only make you feel worse in the long run. Instead, opt for plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and drink lots of water.

When it comes to sleep, try to avoid too many late revision sessions if you can, as these can cause irregular sleep patterns. Instead, focus on getting a good eight hours a night.

Physical activity can also help de-stress your body and mind, so a jog or even brisk walk after school could help re-set your mind.

Don’t compare yourself to others

During exam time it’s natural to want to compare yourself to your friends or classmates by discussing your revision timetables or exam preparation tactics. This can be made worse by the culture of social media sharing.

Comparing yourself to others can make you feel worse, leaving you doubting your own efforts, performance and capability.

Don’t worry about what your friends are doing, just focus on yourself.

Don’t carry out an exam ‘post-mortem’

As with the example above, you should avoid the temptation to compare your exam performance with that of your friends or classmates, as this kind of ‘post-mortem’ could add to your stress.

You can’t change what happened in the exam room, so don’t make yourself feel worse by focusing on it.

Instead start thinking about the next exam or, if they are over, something else entirely!

More information and resources

Student Minds: http://www.studentminds.org.uk/examstress.html

Times Higher Education: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/student/advice/how-deal-exam-stress

Mind: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/your-stories/14-ways-to-beat-exam-stress

Cabinet Secretary tours Oxbridge to see impact of Seren

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The Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams, has visited both Oxford and Cambridge Universities to meet with leaders and outreach officers from colleges including Jesus College, Oxford and Magdalene College, Cambridge.

The visit enabled the Cabinet Secretary to gain new insights into the two universities’ experiences of the Seren Network, to ensure it is improving access and preparing students.

During the visits, she also met a selection of Seren Network alumni who are now studying at the universities.

Students shared their experiences of accessing Oxbridge, including the barriers they faced in getting there, what support they had, what they felt was missing, and how Wales can best support its brightest students.

The visit was also an opportunity to promote scholarships and financial support for Welsh students, including the Welsh Government’s new student finance package, and funding opportunities such as the Moritz-Heyman Scholarship.

The Cabinet Secretary also visited Jesus College, Oxford, which hosted last year’s inaugural Seren Summer School.

The College dates back to Elizabeth I, when it was originally established to train Welsh clergy. Today, it retains a strong link to Wales and will again be hosting this year’s fully-funded Seren Summer School for up to 75 pupils and 11 teachers in August.

Here are some of the highlights of the trip.

Seren/Jesus College Summer School at Oxford University 2018

Seren students! Applications are now open for the 2018 Seren / Jesus College Summer School at Oxford University

 

This August, (Monday 20th to Friday 24th August) will see the return of the Seren Summer School and it’s going to be bigger than ever, with 75 places available.

Matt Williams, Access Fellow of Jesus College at the University of Oxford, explains what you can expect and how to apply…

What is the Seren Summer School?

The Seren Summer School is a unique collaboration between the University of Oxford and the Welsh Government’s Seren Network. You’ll get the chance to live and work with Oxford academics and students for a week in the late summer.

It started last year with 22 students from all over Wales. Feedback from the participants was very positive. Of the 22 participants last year, seven applied to Jesus, and a further nine to other Oxford colleges. The remaining six applied to other top-flight universities, including Cambridge.

This year, we have 75 spaces for students, and 11 for teachers.

Do I have to pay?

No – it will be all-expenses paid, including travel, accommodation and meals.

You won’t need to complete any paperwork about eligibility for bursaries, as the programme is free to all Seren students from any income background.

What will it include?

As with last year, we will recreate an authentic Oxford learning experience. There will be lectures, seminars, and our world-famous tutorials (teaching in small groups of two or three) as well as the chance to get a taste of student life in halls.

How do I apply?

The summer school is open to any participant in one of the eleven Seren hubs. You do not need to be considering applying to Oxford to be eligible. Those who are applying to any competitive university will likely find the insider insights particularly helpful.

What will I learn?

Last year, all of our content was themed around “Our Future”, and this year it will be the “Meaning of Life”. We’ve chosen a broad theme for two reasons:

Firstly, it’s a little different. Most summer schools, such as for UNIQ and the Sutton Trust, are more narrowly focused. Crossing disciplinary boundaries is what universities do. We look at big questions holistically, and try to resolve them.

Whether you’re a budding mathematician, a soon-to-be medical student, an English literature nut, or a philosopher, you will have some interest in analysing life itself.

Rest assured, as well as broadly themed lectures, there will also be subject-specific streams for humanities, social sciences with law, and natural sciences with medicine.

Secondly, there is huge scope with this theme. We’ll have engaging lectures on – among other things – life on other planets, the development of embryos in the womb, medical ethics, the philosophy and theology of life, and how life’s challenges are defined in law.

There’ll also be seminars to develop your research skills and strengthen your university applications. These seminars will include a session with Oxplore.org – “The Home of Big Questions”. And you’ll get to meet some of our present and past students who will share their stories.

Will the Summer School apply to my chosen area of study?

You may be a physicist searching for a theory of everything, or you may be a geographer interested in how our changing environment affects life expectancy.

The point is, it doesn’t matter what subjects you’re studying or intend to study.

This is a summer school for anyone interested in the world and universe that surrounds them.

We will equip you with transferable skills while peering gingerly at a hugely complex problem. This, ultimately, is what university is all about.

Applications opened on Monday 23rd April, and close on Friday 1st June.

Decisions will be emailed to you on Friday 6th July.

To apply, follow this link: https://www.jesus.ox.ac.uk/form/seren-summer-school

If you have any further questions, please feel free to get in touch with me via email: matthew.williams@jesus.ox.ac.uk

This Seren Summer School has been made possible through the enormously generous funding and support of Jesus College alumni and the Welsh Government.