Alesha, one of our students from the 2016 Cambridge Summer College, shares her tips for making the most out of your time on a Varsity Education programme.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re thinking of attending, or will be attending, one of Varsity’s programmes relatively soon! My experience at the Cambridge Summer College turned out to be the best two weeks of my life so I only hope your trip will be just as exciting.
For most of you, the two weeks will fly by extremely quickly, so you absolutely must make the most out of your stay. To help you with that, here are five tips – which I wish I’d been given – to ensure you have the best possible time!
1. Pre-read before lectures
Tutors will often assign you some reading materials a day before each class to familiarise yourself with the topic they intend to teach; just like how it would be at university. Admittedly, I didn’t pre-read before all of my classes, and now, thinking back, I really wish I did. For classes that I pre-read for, I found myself participating more in class by introducing more ideas and asking better questions. Being confident enough to discuss your views completely changes how much you learn because you stop being a passive listener but instead become an active learner.
2. Don’t hold back your questions
If you’re like most of your peers that will be on the trip, you’re likely to at least be a bit intellectually curious about the subjects you have chosen to study and, as a result, you might have a few burning questions on your mind. Don’t hesitate to ask your tutors anything. If your tutors were anything like mine, they will go the extra mile to answer your questions as best as they can.
If you’re curious about the application process for leading universities in the UK, even better! Being surrounded by a diverse range of Oxbridge academics in one place is probably rare for most of us, so ask away to your heart’s content. It could be asking them to review your personal statement, recommend activities or reading materials to enhance your profile, or to give you preparation tips for the entrance exam or the interview. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn from some of the smartest minds.
3. Participate in everything
When I say everything, I mean everything. Lectures, workshops, sports, quiz night, debate night, negotiations, and so on. You didn’t come all the way just to sit at the back and merely take in your surroundings. This is your chance to push yourself out of your comfort zone if you are not normally outspoken. Be proactive and take part, because for most of you, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
4. Be adventurous
This is especially important if you’re not from England because then you’ll be able to try a variety of things that you wouldn’t usually have back home. I am embarrassed to say that I had McDonald’s at least five times during the two weeks. You’ll be able to go into the city on your own for a majority of the lunches so be adventurous; Oxford and Cambridge have plenty of unique restaurants, stalls and trucks with a multitude of cuisines for you to try!
5. Make friends with as many people on the course as possible
During my stay, there were people from 10-15 different countries. I have never been surrounded by such a diverse group of people and I loved it. If your peers were like mine, you will meet some truly fascinating personalities. I’m not kidding when I say the time really flies and you will become good friends with some of them, so make the most of every moment you spend together. Seize the day, because you probably won’t see a majority of them again (but that’s okay – we have social media to keep in touch).
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