How to choose the right summer course

Date of Publication: 07 February 2019

This post was written by Calatina Fazio, one of our 2017 alumni. Catalina studied History and Law with us, combining two courses so that she could explore both Oxford and Cambridge. Catalina is also one of our Student Ambassadors.

I always knew I wanted to become ‘someone’ when I grew up, and I knew that doing so in the remote country I live in, Chile, would be nearly impossible. Therefore, it was obvious what I needed to do: I needed to become a more rounded person and go outside of my comfort zone, throw myself into situations and make the most of the opportunities I was given.

Because of this, when I stumbled upon the Oxford Summer Courses program- and it was not a hard choice to apply. I had also checked Oxford Royale, and summer courses in US Universities (Stanford, Harvard, Brown, etc) but Oxford Summer Courses caught my attention the most.

Besides having a good education and being located in what I consider one of the most beautiful and intellectually stimulating small towns in the world, it seemed cozy. The description, the testimonials, the videos I watched… all of them showed the program as something that would not only develop skills I have never even dreamed off and shove me out of my comfort zone, but also make me feel good about being there.

When I arrived, I found nothing less than what I expected. In Oxford, I enrolled in history and stayed at Christ Church. I think that the place I was staying, in my own bedroom and personal bathroom, was a big part of why I enjoyed the course so much. I am an avid reader and huge fan of Harry Potter, thus being in the same place where they had filmed part of the movie was thrilling, to say the least. From the very first day, I had already connected with four other girls which would go to become my best friends in the course, and with whom I still have contact almost two years later. It is impressive how with the courses you find people that are incredibly kind, intelligent and funny, and also intellectually stimulating. You find people that, on an intellectually psychological level, are similar to you and help you grow as a person.

I was given a previous reading list for my history class, and besides a few e-mails, I was not sure what I expected from the class itself. When I got there it was just me and a girl with dark red hair (loved it!). She was from Brazil (the only other Latin American in the course), very quirky, and we quickly became friends. The class was very focused on oral discussions on the events of Europe in the 17th century, and although I didn’t have even the slightest idea of what happened during that period of history, with help of the teacher and the class discussions I learned a lot.

I also developed essay-writing skills which helped me for school (I am in High-Level History which requires a lot of essay writing, and I’m usually one of the best out of the class). It was both interesting and stimulating.

The second course I enrolled in was in Cambridge, and to learn about Law. I was not sure what I wanted to study in University and was thinking about pursuing a career in jurisprudence but was still hesitant about making a decision. In Cambridge, I was introduced to different types of law, such as international, environmental, corporation, criminal and human rights. What really caught my attention was Human Rights Law, and to this day I am still working with the teacher I had in Cambridge to develop my essay about the death penalty.

Extracurricular activities in both courses were quite similar: going punting, having dinner at different places every night, going to the movies (to the movie of our choice), debate, tie-dye shirts, going to Buckingham Palace or London for the day. We even went to a trampoline park. There is a massive range of things to do in the surroundings of the towns and in the city itself, and the course is planned especially to do fun things that appeal to all public. Even walking around the town is magical. My personal recommendation is to go to small, independent stores and coffee places. For example, in Oxford, by accident, I stumbled into a second-hand library and found a gorgeous 1964 edition of the Hobbit. Another one of my favorite activities was to buy grapes at the Cambridge fruit stands in the central plaza. Little things that made my time there much better.

When my time was done and I had to go back to Chile, I was heartbroken. Oxford Summer Courses was one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity I had to meet new people, to step out of my comfort zone, to do silly things with the friends I made there and concentrate in the challenging classes with real teachers and student. I am also very grateful for having the chance of understanding and getting an insight into what being a university student was like.

Oxford Summer Courses helped me make my final decision of studying Law in England. To sum everything up in a few words, it changed my life and I will never be able to give back what the people that helped build this program truly deserve.

Learn more about how to combine courses here.

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