Blog: May 2017

Your Pre-Course Checklist, Guidance on What to Pack & What to Expect

The University colleges of Oxford

We want you to be as ready as possible for our 2 and 4 week courses in the summer, therefore due consideration needs to be given to your pre-course arrangements and packing list. It’s easy to neglect; as something that can be done later, or nearer the time, or not at all – “I’ll just sort it out when I get there…”


Some very key details need to be in place prior to you even departing for Oxford or Cambridge; just think how you’ll feel when the British sunshine decides to show itself and you’ve left your Aviator sunglasses at home!

Plan to plan.

Ensure key documents and materials are in place to enable you to travel (if necessary), and then make sure you have what you need for your stay with us. One can never predict the British weather accurately, even in summer, sunshine is not guaranteed and rain is never avoidable. First advice is to pack clothing suitable for both warm and cool weather.

Campus life is casual, and this is the typical student dress code during the day. Evening events may require slightly dressier attire such as skirts or dresses, and trousers and shirts.

On our website, we provide fortnight timetables per age group which detail what a typical day will look like and what is included on each day. Also, pre-course information will be sent out prior to the course start date with further information. Please consult these materials, or contact us if you are still unsure, to think about what you might need.

Read on for our recommendations on what “must haves” you’ll need, the types of clothing to pack and what prizes could be yours…

Pre-course checklist:

  • Cash/ATM cards – get GBP currency in advance of your trip and save what you can on the exchange rate.
  • Electronic chargers, – if you are bringing any electronic devices with you, make sure you have a British standard plug socket adaptor.
  • Medications – if you require medications, do not forget them! Note that we send out a Key Information Form prior to the course start dates to capture medical and dietary requirements. Always get directly in touch if you want to be sure.
  • Passport and other travel documents – you will need your passport if you are travelling from overseas to the UK. You may also need a visa, please check on the UK visa government website. As Oxford Summer Courses is accredited by the British Accreditation Council as a short course provider, please apply for a Short-term Study Visa.
  • Mobile phone and laptop/tablet – students are encouraged to bring their own computer if they have one and if it is easy to pack. Do not forget your mobile phone as this will be needed as a form of direct contact, plus, how else will you snap that perfect selfie on the lawn of an Oxford University college?

What to pack:

  • Footwear – shoes suitable for walking long distances.
  • Every day/casual clothes.
  • Sportswear (indoor and outdoor) – trainers, t-shirts and shorts.
  • Formal clothing – your chance to dress up!
  • Toiletries – students are expected to bring their own (shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, toothbrush and toothpaste).
  • Rucksack or small travel bag – for afternoon trips and excursions.
  • Weather protection – English summer demands both an umbrella, and sun protection cream, sun hat and of course, those Aviators!

Please note that towels and all bed linen are provided. Also, emergency buys can be done with ease considering the central location of Oxford University colleges, so do not panic if you manage to forget something.

What to expect:

  • Photography/videography – we will be capturing footage and images so you can see how wonderful you all look once the course is over.
  • Contests and competitions – expect hidden treasures and prizes for the best snaps.
  • International community – students from all cultures, backgrounds and languages will join us this summer. Embrace the highly international group. Relax and learn with students from around the world.
  • Student help – friendly pastoral staff members await your arrival! Many of whom are current or former Oxford/Cambridge students. They’re open to chat, help and answer your questions.

One more thing to remind, get social! Tell your friends where you are and what you’re doing on social media leading up to your arrival and during your time with us. You can find us on Facebook Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, Google+ & Pinterest. We’ll be watching for any standout snaps or videos.

We cannot wait to welcome you on to our courses this summer. We truly believe an academic course is the best setting for a great summer, just ensure you are well equipped for the academic adventure.

See you there!

Posted: May 31, 2017

3 Lessons I learned from Studying Creative Writing with Oxford Summer Courses

In July 2016, Avantika Singhal arrived in Oxford to undertake a Creative Writing academic course. At Oxford Summer Courses we model our teaching on the tutorial system used at Oxford University. This means that the teaching is about your ideas and is your opportunity to discuss them and dissect them with your peers and tutor. We asked Avantika to tell us about her experience of the course, and for her 3 main lessons learned…

Avantika Singhal, 2016 Oxford Summer Courses student

When I was in 9th grade, Enid Blyton and her tales found a permanent residence in the warmth of my heart. After that, I started spending a fair share of my day in getting lost in the maze of fictional characters and nefarious situations she would create. The mystery of one disappearing cat, the suspense that it brought in and the conclusion-everything meant more than just an imaginary story or a way to pass the hours.

An undying love and admiration for writing and reading grew within me and before I knew it, I was sifting through works of Thomas Hardy, Jules Verne and Bram Stoker both greedily and dutifully by the time I had reached 12th grade.

Naturally, when a literary-motivated person like me saw the opportunity to study Creative Writing with Oxford Summer Courses at Christ Church College, Oxford University, I was ecstatic (translation: I squealed VERY loudly with delight) to have this opportunity.

Now, every and any experience can be didactic. From a lecture in the classroom, or a speech by an activist or to words of a passing stranger. But there is value to be had from some more than others. Obviously, I had to share what I learned from this Creative Writing Course.


While crafting a story and creating interesting characters is a laudatory act, what really proves as a bump in the road is identifying and scrutinizing plot holes. If unidentified, they can prove detrimental to a story that could have otherwise been immaculate. Imagine if J.K Rowling had forgotten about one of the seven Horcruxes? No one would be impressed by that and the readers would have given her a stink eye for it.

When our exceptionally brilliant tutor, gave us our main assignment for the course, she told us to fabricate ANYTHING that could be of 5,000 words or less. However, she would always quickly and reassuringly add, “Quality matters more than quantity.”

So, I diligently started writing a story about a mentally ill Cinderella (Yes, I know. A tad bit too creative). But when I was amid my story, I launched a new, crooked character and forced him to conflict with Cinderella. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to introduce him and mention how and where they had met and under what circumstances…

LESSON: Plot holes are extant and you may not be able to iron out each one on first time of asking, but pay attention to every aspect of your story in order to avoid major issues.


There’s a grave difference between literary criticism and needless flak. I learned this the hard way. In my class, I was accompanied by four more students who were equally impassioned by writing. So, when we enthusiastically exchanged stories and skimmed over which new world the other person had created, our tutor asked us to review our friend’s work and voice what we had liked and what we did not.

Despite being slightly mousy and a reticent person, I took to the task. Praising my friends out loud felt emboldening and invigorating. However, this bliss was short-lived because I, of course, was also required to state bluntly and resolutely what changes I would have liked in their story or poem.

At first, my criticism only stretched to “Hmm, maybe this could be expanded a little more” or “The character could come to the surface more by showing one or two of their traits more clearly”. While these comments were adequate, they were not enough. I realized I was running out of subjective rectifications and when that happened, I would resort to saying only positive things.

LESSON: Acknowledge the good and the bad. Doing this means you are identifying an issue in a manuscript and you’re giving the writer the chance to remedy it.


As a writer, I can gladly acquiesce to the fact that when I read a text and spot a difficult word that I had never come across before, I transform into a kid waking up to an early Christmas. It’s tantamount to literary treasure because now, I can absorb this word as part of my own vocabulary and grow as a wordsmith.

Well, in my “Cinderella” story, I constantly tried to use big and archaic words to express things. Incidentally, when I tried to describe water as “stagnant”, I was told quite calmly by my tutor that if I had used the word “tranquil”, it would have been more powerful, more apt and vivid.

LESSON: The elementary purpose of a word is to communicate; therefore, it is vital to choose the right word for the right moment to maximize its effect.


Mistakes must be made so that we can learn from them. Writing creatively is a journey of development, and the environment fostered at Christ Church College, a college celebrated for its literary significance, is inspiring. This was my journey of becoming a more knowledgeable, practical, critical writer in Oxford.

You can join Avantika on her writing journey via her blog, Facebook, Twitter and on Instagram.

We offer a range of courses within creative writing for ages from 10 to 24. Take a closer look at our course page.

Posted: May 25, 2017


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