On this week’s blog, Cardiff hub coordinator Julie Elliott gives her thoughts on the first day of last week’s Jesus College summer school for Seren students.
Like many of you, I was both excited and intrigued by the prospect of a summer school when it was launched at the national Seren conference in March. We were promised the prospect of a guaranteed two places per hub for our Seren to experience first-hand what Jesus College and the wider community of Oxford University has to offer.
Of course, I had visited the city of Oxford before and had learned much about the university, I thought I knew what to expect. As I entered through the wide arch and crossed the cobbled stones I saw before me the immaculately coiffed, grassed quad, I couldn’t help but inhale sharply. I often joke with my students that despite a BA Ed and an MEd I am still scared of libraries and librarians. It is a symptom of the imposter syndrome many of us are prone to. Instead of the familiar fear of not being good enough, I was welcomed into the ancient seat of learning.
Some of the Seren students had begun to arrive, many were clearly nervous – this is the inaugural Seren summer school and despite meticulous planning, there was a feeling of pioneering in the air. All students have one thing in common, they all have the potential to gain a place to study at a prestigious university and be successful in any field they pursue.
Dr Matthew Williams is anything but a cliché of an Oxford professor – he is young and completely relatable to our 17 year olds. He immediately put the students at ease, even admitting to some nerves himself!
No time for extended introductions, it was straight to the first of a series of lectures to unpick “Our Future: Humanity in a Hundred Years”, where we learned of table salt rain, sapphire snow flakes and the probability of life on other planets.
This was followed by lunch in the dining room, students were quickly gelling together, surrounded by portraits of former patrons of the college. The nerves had somehow dissipated and normality had taken over. A key aim of the Seren network – to bring together high achievers and use positive role models to break down misconceptions – was being achieved before our eyes. No student in this group would believe that they would not “fit in” at this or any other selective university.
Lunch over, introductions made, seeds of friendship and collaboration had been sown. The inaugural summer school was barely three hours old and already a huge success!