Oxbridge Academic Programs’ inaugural Oxford Spring Seminar took place between March 20th and March 27th 2016 in Pembroke College. We combined the intensive, daily work involved in the major courses with a two-hour taster session of one other subject for all students; and we also offered a variety of evening talks, visits to sites of historical interest, recreational excursions, and a day-trip to London. It was an exceedingly busy week!
As is the case on all our programs, we gave our students accommodation inside the College itself. They lived, ate, slept, and worked there, just as Oxford University undergraduates do during the academic year.
Our work on arrivals day began before dawn. Every student was met at the airport by a member of staff and escorted back to the University. With students coming from as far afield as Australia, Puerto Rico, and South Africa, it’s no exaggeration to describe our Spring Seminar as a global community. On that first day we went into town and climbed Carfax Tower, which is over 800 years old. This was the starting point for a tour of central Oxford, during which we saw the Bodleian Library and the Sheldonian Theatre.
The outing was only a prelude to more detailed guided walks that took place later in the week. Dr. Michaelis unravelled the history of the University’s foundation as we explored the grounds and buildings of New College, and doctoral researcher Mihaela Mitrovic gave an entertaining architecture tour. She revealed the reasoning behind the design of Trinity College to our students, told them what was unique about the brickwork of Keble College as they admired the intriguing sunken lawns in Liddon Quad, and showed them Oxford’s modern side by interrogating the Investcorp Building at St Anthony’s College.
Oxbridge Academic Programs recognizes that young people are thinking about university applications ever earlier in their school careers. We seek to avoid increasing the stress that this trend has brought with it, while doing our utmost to help plan a calm, informed, and sensible approach to the process. To this end, we welcomed Anna Kotova, a lecturer and interviewer in Law for Oriel College, and David Pope, a town councillor and educational consultant with decades of experience helping students through the applications process, to talk about how to apply to Oxford. In a separate event, Dr. Berryman gave tips based on his own memories of interviewing candidates for music at the University of Cambridge. Our students also enjoyed a dynamic session on presentation skills with creative theatre expert Tanner Efinger.
Oxbridge Academic Programs always balances the intensive academic work involved in our courses with plenty of good fun. Our students enjoyed an evening at a quirky board-game café called Thirsty Meeples – the type of place one could only find in Oxford. They were entertained with an outing to local soccer team Oxford United too. Sadly OUFC could only muster a 1-1 tie against struggling Stevenage, but nevertheless, a good time was had by all. We also had a cinema night in one of Oxford’s old theatres, where we saw the blockbuster London Has Fallen. Our staff were greatly impressed by how quick the students were to bond and form new friendships with peers from across the world.
Oxford is famously filled with historical riches, and Oxbridge Academic Programs always ensures students are fully immersed in their surroundings. On the Spring Seminar, we had gripping guided tours of Blenheim Palace, the Divinty School, the Pitt Rivers Museum, the Ashmolean Museum, and various Colleges. We also had lunch in the Eagle and Child, the favourite watering-hole of C. S. Lewis, J. R. Tolkien, and their literary circle.
Our trip to London began with a tour of Shakespeare’s Globe on the South Bank. Our students were allowed some free time to explore the sights of the West End independently in small groups in the afternoon. In the evening, they saw Billy Elliot at the famous Victoria Palace, before a late private bus journey back to Pembroke.
All this was just complementary to the main thrust of the Spring Seminar – the major classes. These took place on six out of the seven days and were three-and-a-half hours each. Medicine was led by Dr. Predrag Bjelogrlic, genetics by Kenneth Hoehn, and world affairs by Rodrigo Moraes. Meanwhile minor classes were offered in Literature and Business.
Departures day rolled around all too quickly after a fantastic final banquet in Pembroke College Hall. Our staff were on hand from 4:30am to escort students to London for their return flights. The week seemed to have flown past, thanks not least to our participants’ energy and enthusiasm.
On the heels of this success, we are now turning our attention to our summer events. This year the range on offer is wider than ever in scope and ambition, and includes a completely new program in one of the world’s most famous universities – Harvard.