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My experience of UCL’s 2020 Summer Schools

By Lauren Sandhu, on 3 September 2020

This summer has been a busy one for the Access and Widening Participation team. At the end of July we ran 13 summer schools for students in Year 12 (S5 in Scotland/Year 13 in Northern Ireland) online. Some of the students who attended kindly blogged about their experience. Today we hear from Lena who took part in our English Summer School. 

Who knew that in just one week you could acquire so much knowledge, have so many new experiences and forge so many new friendships virtually? I certainly did not. It is sufficient to say that the UCL English Summer School programme far surpassed and exceeded my expectations in every facet. As well as providing a jubilant, friendly and amicable atmosphere, the programme also allowed me to meet incredible faculty members and allowed me to forge deep ties with companionable, skilful, diligent students around the country. The balance of structured seminars/lectures, social events, and university prep/advice sessions was tremendously beneficial in rounding out my first experience of the ‘university lifestyle’ (for lack of a better word). I now feel that I have an advantageous awareness of myself, both individually and professionally, and I am excited to reveal that the UCL Summer School programme has helped me decide to go to university (preferably in central London) and to pursue an undergraduate degree in Journalism.

It is truly unbelievable how much one can accomplish within the span of a very strenuous, yet exciting week! In the English programme, we studied a wide variety of texts ranging from novels such as The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne to also studying one of Shakespeare’s transgressive plays, Twelfth Night, arguably one of my favourite plays by this writer. However, one of the lectures/seminars that intrigued me the most was the very first one where we studied the historical context of the Harlem Renaissance. This lecture/seminar challenged my one dimensional and linear perspective of this historical period since I have never studied it before. It was an eye-opening session.

All the texts we studied centred on the notions of Chance and Accident and how these texts linked with the key themes. To summarise, we analysed theories, critiqued prose and verse, and took a more critical look at how these works link with contemporary and modern society. To finish off the week, we were put in groups of three and each student had to contribute to the presentation that they have set up with their group. I analysed the play ‘Twelfth Night’ with my group and did a critical analysis of Malvolio, linking it to not only the two key themes (Chance and Accident) but also interpreting how this character may link to contemporary and modern society as well. I took an unusual approach talking about the taboo topic of ‘Cancel culture’ and linking the construct Malvolio with modern TV shows such as Black Mirror and books like Trainspotting.  It was a very enjoyable and insightful session!

Through the programme, I gained a better depth in pressing societal issues, collaborated with like-minded individuals, and grew unbelievably as a person. The Student Leaders were so energetic and easy-going and their intuitive way of thinking always broadened my outlook.  This helped me realise that I intend to go to university as, although I might be out of my comfort zone, joining a new, unfamiliar environment, I will also meet people from all walks of life and learn more than I would have envisioned!

I would recommend learners to sign up to the programme as not only would you have a taste of what university would be like,  but you would be able to expand your knowledge thanks to professors and lecturers who teach passionately and effortlessly and involve viewpoints that span different cultures and world views. Thank you UCL for a lovely experience that I will not forget!

UCL English Summer School Participant 2020

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