Sunday, 8 September 2013

You’re Not Too Cool For Summer School

by Gregory Walton-Green

My class
I was somewhat reluctant to relinquish two weeks of my holiday this summer, which I could have spent lounging around the house and the beach, to go to a summer school in Ancient Greek at Bryanston School, Dorset. Now, having gone and with time to reflect, I am so glad I did sign up for it. 

It can’t be denied that there was a lot of work to do: each student had three one-hour lessons most days of the week, and we were expected to prepare work between each session for the next. The summer school was much larger than I was expecting: there were over 200  girls and 150 boys between the ages of 16 and 25, from absolute beginners to those studying Ancient Greek at University, gathered in one place for one purpose- to learn! I was one of the first to arrive, and I was a bit nervous as to how I’d get on with the people I’d be spending the next 14 days of my life with, especially as I was in a room of four. I needn’t have worried. I made friends so easily, with everyone being in the same boat. It was amazing to meet so many people who also wanted to study Classics. Through the summer school I have made some really good friends with whom I intend to stay in contact.

The entry of Agamemnon
Yes, it’s true there was a LOT of work. My tutor told me that we covered the amount of text prescribed for an A-level several times over. And I did have to stay up until midnight a few nights, just to get all the work done. But there was so much more to it than just the work. As I went through the week I found I got quicker at translating and learning so that I had more free time to go to the café with a few friends, or relax in my room, or play tennis, or read a book! 

There was also a whole range of extra-curricular events you could get involved in. The summer school put on two plays, a comedy in English (Lysistrata: filled with sexual innuendo and hilariously, albeit cringeworthily, adapted to include pop songs such as Rebecca Black’s “Friday” reinvented as “Praying” and a more explicit version of Britney Spears “Hit Me Baby One More Time”), and a tragedy, Agamemnon, in Greek, in which I played the herald (see photograph above). There was also the opportunity to help with props and costumes for both plays, as well as to showcase your musical talent in the concert, which included performances involving everything from playing a bin as a drum to choral and orchestral arrangements. 

In the evening, pupils could visit the school bar and “The Rave Cave” (it didn’t always live up to its reputation) or brave a trek into town through the woods or along the ridiculously long drive to reach the pub, if you could spare the time from studying. One of the best things about the summer school was the incredible array of lunchtime lectures and evening seminars on offer, all by professional Classicists from top schools and universities who had a real interest in the particular topic they were presenting. The lectures were thoroughly engaging and often amusing (Costas Panayotakis’ one-man show of the Roman version of Agamemnon springs to mind). I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world (for one thing the world would be a nightmare to organise!)

At the first themed party
Ok, I know what you’re all thinking: “Why would I want to waste my summer holiday, when I’ve finally got some time off school to relax, to go off for a week or two, with some people I’ve never met, to STUDY?” 

I must admit that I’d never really considered a summer school before last year, and had much the same opinion as you, but now, having actually been on a summer school, I urge you all to give it a go. Not only can it give you something to write on your personal statement, but, especially if it’s subject specific, it can help you understand so much more about the course you’re planning on doing at University, and give you an insight into the kind of work and the kinds of people that you might see there. Who knows, you might even have some fun.

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