The start of the week seemed to be the same as any other. A 9am seminar on Monday morning followed by a lecture and then a free day. However, we could all sense that this was the start of the end. Today would be the last Monday, tomorrow the last Tuesday, until finally we would all be saying goodbye and heading home come Saturday morning. However, the overall sadness of this thought didn’t stop us from having an amazing week.
Again the extraordinary lectures continued this time with Julie Hearn speaking on Young Adult Fiction, Shaun McCarthy on the rules of writing for production, Judith Murray discussing the role of the literary agent, Tara Isabella Burton talking about her experience as a travel writer and finding stories through the people in these places, and Jenny Lewis talking about writing poetry from research.
With it being the last week we were all keen to fit as much as possible into our days. Each day involved a new adventure or a new college to explore. Walking around Oxford, the most incredible buildings can often be attributed to the University, so with our spare time a few of us sought out to visit as many of the university colleges as possible. Some of the most notable were New College – famous for having select parts of the campus used in the filming of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Magdalen College was spectacular with its beautiful gate and bridge that led out to a deer park. That in itself was amazing to watch as over thirty deer raced across the field.
Another favourite of mine was Keble College, although it is often described as being quite ugly. Unfairly so.
The Ashmolean Museum was another stop of our adventuring tour followed by a guided tour of the Oxford Castle which has spent most of its existence serving as a prison. It was a functioning prison up until 1996 when it was shut down due to the woeful conditions the prisoners were forced to endure – in 1996 they were still forced to use a bucket if they needed to go to the toilet. The castle tour involved a dangerous climb up the tower – the stairs were designed to trip and kill enemy soldiers trying to storm the castle. Then we headed down into the crypt where a ghost is said to lurk. I’m a sceptic and even I could have sworn that when I held up my camera to take a photo something shifted in the frame.
After this our tour guide walked us around the castle and shared stories of the prisoners who have lived and died there. Some of the stories were quite shocking in their detail as we listened to how the rich were able to live as though nothing had changed while in the prison and the poor were subject to horrible conditions. However, regardless of wealth it all still ended the same for the prisoners. Hanging.
The incredible bartender, Lou, took us on a secret tour of Exeter College on Wednesday night. Part of the tour involved seeing the areas of the college we hadn’t been able to see yet and included walking up and onto the roof. The view from on top of campus was beautiful and it was lovely to spend time with the people who had practically become family over the past few weeks.
Come Friday it was time for our last full day on campus. While the day itself had a feeling of melancholy this was offset by the incredible closing dinner we were all able to share together. The dining hall had been set up for a feast and everyone looked incredible in their formal outfits. Following an incredible meal, there were speeches and the handing out of certificates. It felt like a proper graduation dinner and it was an amazing experience to share it with my newfound friends.
Including all the classes and assignment struggles, Saturday was definitely the hardest day to get through. This amazing and inspiring trip had finally come to an end and now it was time to say goodbye. I will definitely be catching up with all the friends I have made for life but it was still hard to accept the end of this experience.
I want to thank the incredible kitchen staff, the scouts, the lecturers and tutors, the Summer School Assistants who went out of their way to ensure we had a fantastic trip, and all of the summer school students I was able to share this experience with. All of you made this trip truly unforgettable.