Meet Joseph, whose love of engineering encouraged him to apply to the Yale summer school:

We spoke to Seren RCT-Merthyr pupil Joseph Phillips to find out whether his experience of the Yale summer school has encouraged him to apply to a US university.  Here’s what he had to say…


We also spoke to him before he left – here’s what he said before making the trip.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m a pupil at St John’s School in Aberdare and I’m doing A-Levels in maths, physics, geography and welsh baccalaureate. I’ve chosen the YYGS applied science and engineering course.

Why did you apply to the YYGS?

I heard about the opportunity from my Seren hub coordinator. I’ve been to several Seren masterclasses this year already and I’ve really enjoyed widening my knowledge and going beyond what we’re taught as part of the A-Level curriculum.

I’m currently doing an Open University course in engineering; an opportunity that I heard about through Seren. It’s great to get background knowledge and a deeper understanding of engineering. I’d like to learn as much as possible because you can’t do engineering as an A-Level.

To me, this summer school seemed like another great opportunity to extend my knowledge, experience something totally new and get an insight into university life in America.

What are you most looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to seminars, particularly the ones on microscopy and artificial intelligence. But I think what I’m most looking forward to is being able to engage with people from all over the world. Students from 120 different countries will be attending this summer school and I’ve never been somewhere with such an amazing level of diversity before. I think it’ll be a real eye-opener.

Why do you think pupils in Wales don’t consider studying in the US?

I think pupils in Wales are often put off applying to university in the US because they hear about how expensive it can be. I had no idea what sort of financial support was available, if any. But since applying to this summer school, I’ve researched into the financial side of things and there are lots of bursaries and scholarships opportunities, so I don’t think pupils should be put off.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m not sure whether or not I’d like to apply to university in the US, but I’m definitely keeping an open mind. I’m also considering Oxford, Swansea, Cardiff, Leicester and Nottingham, and have booked onto open days this summer.

I also have work experience lined up this summer at a metal fabrication firm. I’m unsure of what I’d like to study at university; I’ve considered aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering, but I’m hoping that going to Yale as well as attending open days in the UK will give me a better idea of the different engineering courses available to me.


We hear from Cassie, Tom, Carys, Joe and Yousuf all about their first week at Yale University…

What has been the best thing about YYGS so far?

Carys: Everything! I’m loving every minute and can’t believe that we only have five days left here in the US!

Cassie: Meeting new people and making global connections.

Tom: Meeting people from all around the world, talking about our different cultures, background and accents. It’s such a good experience to broaden my horizons and find out about the world. We all come together as one community and I believe this shared experience is invaluable to all of us.

Joe: Meeting people from over 126 countries, as I don’t think I’ll ever experience this level of diversity ever again. I hope to leave the programme with friends from all over the world and hopefully meet up with them in the future.

Yousuf: The people here. I have made the best of friends from all across the globe, it’s insane. From Rhode Island to Ghana, Palestine to Jamaica, and New Zealand to Brazil, everyone is incredible and we will definitely keep in touch after YYGS – in fact I’ve already arranged a meet-up with a few of them in Boston in a months’ time!


What have you learnt?

Carys: That I love Yale and definitely want to apply to a university in the US! This programme has given me so much confidence in the fact that I can achieve my goals, and I have found it all so inspiring.

Cassie: There’s more than one way to get where you want to go, and it’s best to shop around before finalising your decisions.

Tom: I have learnt so much. I’ve learnt lots about the liberal arts system in America, in which you major in a subject whilst studying a wide variety. The American education system is quite different to ours in the UK, so it’s very useful to come out here and understand it for ourselves before navigating university applications. Although the bulk of my lectures and seminars have been about chemistry, physics, and engineering, I have a new-found interest in biology. It’s great to see how interdisciplinary all of the subjects are, and this programme has helped me develop cohesiveness between subjects.

Joe: I have been able to increase my knowledge in all aspects of applied science, which will really benefit me when applying to university as well as when I want to start a career in engineering.

Yousuf: Yale is for me, it’s not just a wild dream. We can actually get into here – it really is possible for a welsh student to do so.


What has been your favourite lecture so far?

Carys: The lecture on the chemical complexity in unconventional oil and gas extraction, as it emphasised that many “green” concepts are not always as they seem. For example, renewable energy sources don’t always have a net beneficial impact. Also, as with all the lectures and seminars, the lecturer was very experienced and engaging.

Cassie: The lecture on particle physics because A Level Physics set me up really well to understand the lecture and grasp the full concepts.

Tom: I really enjoyed the lecture on unconventional oil and gas extraction. There has been much debate in the UK about fracking, and I have followed this without really understanding the back story. This lecture used chemistry and environmental engineering to expose the real issues with fracking and brush aside the misconceptions.

Joe: The best lecture so far has to be particle physics, as I was able to apply my past knowledge from AS level physics. As a result of this, I was able to play an even stronger role in my breakout session, aiding the learning of my peers.

Yousuf: Creating Little Big Bangs – woah. I actually understood the rocket science (and it actually really isn’t that hard – it’s AS physics in a nutshell). The lecturer was amazing and I could apply my knowledge to the situation to ask thought-provoking questions and learn more about the physics at CERN and RHIC.


What has been your favourite seminar so far?

Carys: This is very difficult to choose! It was probably the seminar on the mathematics of maps – we discussed the pros and cons of various different projections and ended the seminar by mapping our own virtual 3D world. I enjoyed applying maths to the earth, and learning how to portray 3D objects in 2D accurately. Also, the seminar emphasised the importance of maths within applied science – this showed me that a strong background in maths will be very useful whichever career path I take.

Tom: The seminars have all been great! I have experimented with rocket fuel, looked at chemical engineering in the Solvay process, and discussed confirmation bias which is actually a bigger issue than you probably think. Tomorrow I am studying the art of flight which I am really looking forward to. The best thing about the seminars is the diversity, which makes us much more rounded students.

Joe: My seminar on video game theory really interested me, as when I was younger I spent a lot of my time playing. Since I have attended this lecture I have been able to understand how they work and why I enjoy them so much.

Yousuf: I can’t choose, it’s impossible. All of my seminars have been so good and so intriguing that I was just immersed into every single talk and my knowledge in each of the subjects increased substantially. A lot of my seminars were centred around VR. I find this topic super interesting so I was not disappointed! It’s been great learning about other super cool things such as growing brains to survive a zombie apocalypse, detecting ripples in space and time, and also levitation. I’ve loved every single one and they were all super great in their own very unique, fun ways.


What have you enjoyed the most?

Carys: Getting to know people from all over the world, and being a part of the incredible and inspiring community that has been created here. Also, teaching people about Welsh culture and flying the Welsh flag with pride!

Tom: I have enjoyed showing off my patriotism. We have got people chanting Wales around campus and playing rugby.

Yousuf: Again, the people. I could just talk on and on about everyone here. Every single person has a life story to tell and it’s so interesting just to sit back and listen to everybody’s life and how they got here. Sitting on random tables at food times and just sparking a spontaneous conversation with the rest of the table was a really great way to make a lot of new friends that I’ll remember forever (not to sound cheesy or anything). 126 countries are represented here, and my suitemates come from all over the world from Kyrgyzstan to Tunisia to India and Michigan – I love it here.


What have you been doing in your free time?

Carys: Exploring New Haven, using the Payne Whitney Gym facilities first thing every morning, socialising and discussing different cultures with new friends from all over the world – creating lifelong memories! The programme is quite intense (in a good way!) therefore free time has been very precious!

Tom: Eating out is definitely a highlight – America lives up to its name in this sense. I have often been throwing a ball around with a group of people, and arguing whether we should play rugby or American football! I’ve enjoyed chatting, playing games, and teaching people Welsh phrases.

Joe: I have tried my best to play sports that I am unfamiliar with, I have been taught many different sports from people with many different backgrounds.

Yousuf: Everything you can possibly think of. Hide and seek at night outside the New Haven library – check; Eating out at every burger and burrito restaurant I could possibly find with my American friends – check; Playing ‘Cards Against humanity’ till dawn in our suites – check; pretending to be an American for a whole day – check; teaching Americans the word ‘peng’ and many other British and Welsh nuances – check; and a lot of other things but most importantly flying the welsh flag wherever I went (Heck we even made some people wish they were really welsh!!). I love it here, and I’m sure everybody else will have the same feeling too. YYGS has truly been an unforgettable experience, I just wish it never has to end!


Kirsty Williams joins some of Wales’ brightest students in the US

Monday 25th 4

Unless you’ve been out of the country (!) you won’t have been able to miss the news from our students this week as they’ve been settling into their US home for the next two weeks, for the Yale Young Global Scholars Programme.

The bright sixth-formers are the first seven of 16 Seren pupils to join students from across the world on a life-changing summer programme, held at one of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions.

1,700 students, 126 countries, 50 US States

All part of the Seren Network, the students are joining more than 1,700 other students from 126 countries and 50 US states on Yale’s Young Global Scholars Programme (YYGS), at Yale University’s New Haven campus in the US, as part a new scholarship opportunity made possible through the Seren Network.

Earlier this week, Welsh Government Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams, joined the first group of pupils as she looks to build on links already made with the university through Seren.

The Education Secretary will also travel to both Harvard University and MIT in Boston to discuss new opportunities and collaborations.

Kirsty Williams said: “It is a huge success story for Seren that we’ve been able to broker a partnership which will see Yale’s renowned Young Global Scholars programme made accessible to students across Wales.

“I’m proud to be joining our first ever group of students to take part in this life-changing summer programme and look forward to making new links with other universities as we try to open new doors for many more of our students.

“I want every pupil in every school in every part of Wales to know that if you work hard then no academic opportunity is off-limits. I think this is a perfect example of what is possible and I want to thank all the sponsors involved in making this happen.”

The students represent 9 of the 11 Seren hubs including Anglesey-Gwynedd, Cardiff, EAS, RCT-Merthyr, Carms-Pembs, Vale of Glamorgan, Flintshire-Wrexham, Ceredigion, and Swansea.

Here’s Kirsty Williams catching up with Elli Rees from the Swansea hub about her experience of the Yale Young Global Scholars programme so far:

Meet Yousuf, whose dream is to set up his own tech company in Silicon Valley. He’s one of the first cohort on the Yale summer school:

Yousuf Bakshi is from the Cardiff hub and is one of the 15 other Seren students taking part in the Yale Young Global Scholars summer school programme. Find out more about Yousuf…

 Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m a sixth-form student at Fitzalan High School in Cardiff and I’m studying for A-Levels in maths, physics, computer science and Welsh baccalaureate. I’ll be the first person in my family to go to university, and the first pupil from Fitzalan High School ever to have applied to a US university.

Why did you apply to the YYGS summer school programme?

I’ve wanted to study in the US since I was very young; it’s always been my dream. I’ve thought about applying to Harvard and Yale for a long time, but I wanted to find out as much information as I could about US universities before making my applications next year. I had already been accepted onto the Sutton Trust summer school programme this summer to visit MIT and Harvard, so when this opportunity to experience student life at Yale for two weeks came up as well, I jumped at the chance to apply!

Why does studying in the US appeal to you?

What really attracted me to the US university system is that you don’t have to pick just one subject to study for your whole university career. You can choose to major in one subject and then you can ‘minor’ in a completely different subject. This can even be a subject you’ve never studied before, for example, I know someone who wants to minor in Russian, having never studied it before. I’d really like to major in computer science and possibly minor in either politics or graphic design. One of the other major reasons US universities appealed to me was that many of them are particularly highly regarded for computer sciences, which I’m really passionate about. Lots of universities have links with Silicon Valley and have programmes that allow students to work for huge companies like Apple or Microsoft alongside their degree. I would absolutely love the chance to get involved with opportunities like this.

What are you most looking forward to about your trip?

I’ve chosen the ‘applied science and engineering’ YYGS course and I’m really excited for all the different lectures and seminars I’ll be attending. We were sent a long list of seminars and could pick the ones that sounded most interesting. There was such a huge range of topics; I found it hard to choose just eight. I’m particularly excited for the seminar on ‘Disney imagineering’ where we’ll be learning all about designing Disney theme parks, and the seminar on ‘mad science’ where we’ll be learning how to survive a zombie apocalypse by growing brains! We’ve already been given lots of reading material too – I can’t wait to get stuck in.

What are your long-term ambitions?

If I end up studying in the US, I’d love to stay in the US and find a job at one of the major tech companies. My dream would be to set up my own tech company in Silicon Valley one day…

Why do you think opportunities like this are important for students in Wales?

I think students in Wales often don’t consider applying to US universities because some of the more famous institutions like Yale and Harvard can be very intimidating. I also think schools in Wales tend to focus only on UCAS and universities in the UK. Opportunities like this partnership between Seren and the Yale Young Global Scholars programme are great as they show pupils in Wales that there’s a whole other world out there that they might not have considered or might have found too daunting.

My teachers at Fitzalan have given me so much support with the YYGS application process. One of my teachers is actually going on a course soon to learn about how to support students who are thinking of applying to the US. Hopefully this will mean that more people from Fitzalan will apply in the future.

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Meet Carys: the Welsh athlete who is one of the first cohort on the Yale summer school

Carys Bill is from the Cardiff hub and is travelling to the United States with 15 other Seren students to take part in the Yale Young Global Scholars summer school programme. Find out more about Carys…

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m a Year 12 pupil at Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr and I’m doing A-Levels in maths, further maths, chemistry and physics. I’ve chosen the YYGS applied science and engineering course.

Why did you apply to the YYGS summer school programme?

I’ve never been to the US before, and had never really considered studying in America, so the summer school at Yale University seemed like an amazing opportunity. I know that the US university system is different to the UK, so I was keen to get an insight into university life there.

After researching the different courses, I really loved the sound of applied science and engineering. I’m enjoying all my A-Level subjects but I still don’t know what I’d like to study at university. I really enjoy the sciences, and I’m considering a degree in earth sciences, but I’d really like to found out more about my options. I love that the YYGS applied science and engineering course is so broad, because it means I’ll get to try out a variety of topics and hopefully found out what I’m really interested in and what I’d like to continue studying at degree level. The flexibility of the US system also means that I wouldn’t have to narrow my choices down immediately.

This summer school will definitely be something I’ll include in my personal statement next year. The range of subjects that I’ll be studying on the summer school also means that I’ll be able to talk about topics I’ve learnt in university interviews, whatever the degree I end up applying for.

Why does the US university system appeal to you?

Sport is extremely important to me; I run for Wales and I also love cycling and swimming. At American universities, there seems to be much more of a focus on the whole student and balancing academic life with extra-curricular activities. This really appeals to me, as I aim to reach a high standard in both things. The sports facilities themselves are also incredible at the top US universities. I’m really looking forward to using the Payne Whitney facilities at Yale, which includes a top quality indoor athletics track, gymnasium and swimming pool!

What are you most looking forward to about your trip?

I’m most looking forward to being completely immersed in US university life and finding out what it’s like to be a student at Yale.

I’m excited to meet new people from all over the world. We’ve already been put in WhatsApp groups based on the courses we’ve chosen and this has been a great way to get to know people before the summer school. I’m really looking forward to meeting people who are just as passionate about the sciences as me.

I’m looking forward to attending the seminars themselves. I’ve chosen topics like climate change, bicycle mechanics and Maglev trains. The topics all sound really interesting and they’re things that I wouldn’t ever get to learn about as part of the school curriculum.

In addition to the seminars and lectures, I’m also really looking forward to the ‘Capstone Project’ and the ‘Simulation’. The capstone project will be an opportunity for us to work in small groups and apply what we’ve learnt to real life situations. The focus of my project will be ‘sustainable energy and infrastructure’, which I’m very excited about as I’m very passionate about sustainability and our planet. We don’t find out the topic of the ‘Simulation’ session, which adds to the excitement!

Carys Bill pic


Introducing the first 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