Tales from Summer Schools

This summer, in between designing website (and getting it wrong!), I've also spent about two weekss so far in Oxford helping with summer schools.

 For the first week, I assisted with UNIQ, organised by Oxford, for students from state schools with a realistic chance of aplication.  For the week, I was in charge of a group of 10 aspiring computer scientists (none of which got lost, or run over!) as they made their first steps in thee subject.  After the end of the week, some had decided that Oxford wasn't for them, or that CompSci wasn't the degree that they thought it would be.  However, from the perspective of UNIQ, this is not a failure: te students have discovered more about their subject and made their own decisions.  The work I completed that week was amazingly satisfying, watching the students getting to know Haskell and - despite the reputation of computer scientists - becoming more sociable.  The hours that myself and the other mentors worked were exhaustingly long: we were awake before most of the students, and were always the last ones asleep.  Our work was not just academic, but also pastoral.

Many of the students have formed friendships that will last, and may even meet again at interview, or attend university together.  Several of the computer scientists that I worked with said that they want to apply, and that they would like to see each other during interviews, if possible.  At the end of the week, all of the mentors were exhausted, but not so exhausted that we couldn't celebrate one lsat night before going on to the next week.

My second week's work was with a summer tour from Hong Kong, starting the Saturday morning after the UNIQ students left (read: I started the work less than 100% awake!).  They were here in a variety of different groups, all ready to study Oxford, British Culture and more.  I met the other tutors that would be working with me over the next week, and got stuck in with my first lesson.  35 eager faces, ready for 3 hours of Oxford admissions - or so we hoped.  It rapidly transpired that 3 hours was a lot longer than we expected: we started resorting to Oxford admissions videos, shortly followed by Gap Yah.  And that was a mistake.  The first day finished with more pictures than I ever expected: I think I still see the camera flashes in my sleep!

One of the activities for the students was a tour in Cambridge (full of backwards punts, and crowded rivers).  Unfortunately, being travel sick, some of the students noticed, and when I got off the coach at a service area and returned, was asked by a student:  "Josh, have you chundared everywhare?"  Obviously, by this point, more than enough British culture had been absorbed.

The culture lessons also include Shakespeare (and far more than could ever by timetabled thanks to one of the tutors - a Natural Scientist/English student from Cambridge).  She managed to get through Macbeth and, as Iam typing is currently watching Romeo and Juliet with her charges.  Additionally, they have been taught about the variety of British accents, and not just by my ramblings.  One of the activities is actually just labelled as "Accents", with unfortunate immitations of some of the tutors ("Silence!", "Be quiet!", "Sit down!") all turning up!  Additionally, I have remained relatively understandable this week, only  yelling "Hoorry oop!" once - much to the amusement of the students in front of me.

Towards the end of the week, I got the opportunity to do a couple of Computer Science talks, some more successful than others, particularly when the lack of a laptop is taken into account.  I was thrilled to hear that one of my studenst was considering studying Computer Science at university, having previously considered physics.  He even bought a Computer Science textbook when we went to Cambridge!

The last day that I was working, we had a formal.  The students were all dressed it in their best clothes ("they look fantastic, it'll break your heart" according to one of the tutors), and (having received very little notice) I'd tucked my shirt in and cleaned my shoes.  After the formal, the tutors were all called upon to make speeches about their time, and we received pinboards with messages of thanks.  One thing that I'll certainly take from this week is that, according to the groups that I was teaching, I'm not cool, except for when I do Computer Science, at which point, I am cool!

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