Scottish Easter Residential

In April 2018, for the first time ever Homerton hosted a residential specifically for Scottish students.  38 S4 (Year 11 equivalent) students from across Scotland visited the College for 5 days.  The students elected to follow either the Sciences or Arts and Humanities programme, and attended lectures and workshops in a variety of subjects relevant to their chosen stream.  There were also talks on student finance and advice on making a competitive application, as well as social activities including a quiz, ceildh and candlelit formal dinner!

One student, Meghan, has written an article summarising her time on the residential.  Please find below the full text of the article.

 

FRIENDS, MOTIVATION AND INSIGHT INTO CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY LIFE – AN EXPERIENCE OF A SCOTTISH EASTER RESIDENTIAL STUDENT
Meghan Ray, The Glasgow Academy (S4)

Hello, my name is Meghan Ray.  I am 15 years old and I live in Glasgow, Scotland. During the Easter holidays, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to spend a week at Homerton College to observe what really goes on and to develop an insight into Cambridge University life.  Before I had submitted my application for the Easter residential, I had done my research on Cambridge and gazed in awe at the large university town, the beauty, and the fact that life had offered me a chance to stay in this place for a week; how unbelievable!

The days approached and my National 5 exams were only a few weeks away.  I was apprehensive but at the same time excited to think of living in Homerton College for a week, like a real Cambridge University student.

On Monday 9th April, I stepped foot in the grounds of the Homerton College and a surge of excitement sank in as I realised what was happening.  I was finally here.  Living the moment I had been so excited about for weeks.  I took small, timid but determined footsteps towards to Porters' Lodge and was greeted by a young man.

“You’re Meghan? Meghan Ray?” a friendly voice asked, as Mr Powell very warmly welcomed and showed me the accommodation.  He went through the formalities and an orientation tour of the college.  There were around thirty five students in total from various parts of Scotland classed in Science and Humanities stream who would be staying together for 5 days.  Two other girls were from my school, the Glasgow Academy and we agreed to stay together all the time.

The first afternoon was spent with a small tour around Homerton College.  I observed the small rooms in which many chairs and tables were assembled, surely where students engrossed as much as they could in the typical study environment.  We were shown a wide variety of places, from rooms in which lectures took place to the buttery, in which there was a much more relaxed atmosphere.

After our splendid tour around the College, we participated in an ice breaker activity which really tested our communication skills, forcing ourselves to talk to new people as Mr Powell gave us the challenge of playing human bingo.  At first, I was intimidated.  I was in a room full of intellectual, genius students who would make me look like a baby, but in less than fifteen minutes time, I knew the names of people who owned more than three pets and even the names of people who loved penguins!  Next, our thinking skills were tested by a brain-teasing activity.  We were asked many mind boggling and controversial questions such as “is it theft to take pencils from IKEA?”, allowing us to hear everyone’s perspective as well as reminding us that these questions have more than one answer, neither is right nor wrong.

Our first morning at Cambridge was spent with a walk to the engineering department, where we had the privilege of making our own recorders!  As a keen lover of music, I was absolutely fascinated to discover the inextricable links between physics and music and even more so when the theory we had learnt only 15 minutes ago was actually being carried out instantly in front of our own eyes, as we were making our own recorders in the lab area.  From a young age, the stereotypical image of “engineering is just building structures with straws and marshmallows” had been presented to me, but after this activity that image was broken, and an image of an extremely interesting and fascinating subject had been presented to me.

As the week went on, I had now developed a wide range of knowledge in many different subjects: from Psychology, to Chemistry, Physics, Maths, Archaeology, Medicine and much more, as Professors came in and spoke their heart out, almost filling every space in the room with reasons why they love their speciality so much and most certainly convincing everyone very well! 

Further on in the week, we had been given the opportunity to see the town of Cambridge ourselves for an afternoon and with the lovely, new friends I had made we tried to see as many Colleges we could.  From Magdalene College, to Corpus Christi College, to Emmanuel College and finally to King's, we admired the beautiful buildings.  We roamed through the bustling streets, cars crammed into narrow streets, bicycles chained up in rows, a large open air market place with stall holders hollering out prices for Cambridge souvenirs, narrow cobbled side streets, coffee shops, antique shops, florists with bouquets out on the street in buckets.

During the week, I had realised that the students surrounding me were not as intimidating as I thought.  They too, like me, were at least 300 miles away from home, experiencing a completely different environment from home.  We had now become a group of enthusiastic school students with a common purpose and goal of learning together the basics of science at a level above and beyond the school curriculum.  The organisers and student helpers were also extremely reassuring and helpful, making sure we were all okay.

Everyone had gathered for a quick lunch break and as I let my many thoughts of the week sink in, I took the opportunity to ask one, single question that I had in my mind:

“What were the main things you got out of your time here?”

What I like the most about this question is that it is an open question, as “what you got” can be interpreted in so many ways by so many people.  By talking to my friends over the days I got a variety of different answers, ranging from people talking about making new friends, becoming part of a new community, to a few people talking about gaining confidence in respect to applying to Cambridge University in the future.  Here is a wordle I created with the answers to my survey, and the most common answers were highlighted:

As I looked at the results obtained, I noticed the most common words were Insight, Motivation and Friends.  A sudden epiphany, as a surge of realisation sunk in.  These three words accurately summed up these last 5 days.

Personally, I think that this residential has really given me the unique opportunity to achieve my purpose of prospering as an individual and as a future student of Medical Sciences in Cambridge.  I managed to understand the steps in this process of future research in science and got an opportunity to have a glimpse of Cambridge University student life.  Through reflection, feedback and evaluation I consolidated my skills and knowledge in different science subjects to help me make informed decisions on choosing medical science as a future career.  Engaging with the inspiring group of mentors and fellow students to contribute to the main objectives of this camp allowed me to network, collaborate and transform myself and prosper as an individual.

I learnt that in Cambridge walking on grass in certain colleges is just as illegal as going over the speed limit on the road and I got the amazing experience of my life by stepping foot in and getting a detailed tour in the University Library, which is said to contain EVERY single published book in the UK (heaven really does exist on Earth).

My survival skills were also put to test as I particularly remember one day crossing the road and Fergus shouting far off “Stop!”, referring to the people behind us to not cross the road, but me and my friend instead stood in the middle of the road like a pair of chickens, and thankfully were ushered off the road by Fergus frantically shouting “No not you girls, get off the road!!” as we were both extremely close to getting knocked over by at least a dozen cyclists.

I think you will notice that the most common answer from the wordle was “making new friends”.  Over the course of this week, children from different parts of Scotland, different ethnic backgrounds had come together and we were able to enrich the student diversity in the camp by sharing knowledge and culture, which involved teaching Fergus how to ceilidh dance, to which he replied “wait…it goes backwards too?! It’s too confusing!!”

Before I knew it, Friday the 13th had approached and although I am not superstitious at all, I did have to agree and come to the conclusion that this was indeed an unlucky day.  It was the day all good things came to an end.  My time at Cambridge was now over, and it was time to say goodbye to my student life at Homerton College, my fellow roommates as well as the sumptuous meals!

The seven-and-a-half hour long bus journey was spent with excitement for returning back home to our families, but there was also another part of us longing to stay in Cambridge, praying that time could be frozen, wishing we could relive the last few days over and over again.  But this experience is what has given us the motivation.  This hopefully wasn’t our last trip to Cambridge, and the bus journey back was almost a challenge, daring us to return back again.  I took my experience and new friends as a return ticket, to moments that will hopefully never be gone.