“Thanks to the bursary I received from the Lytham St Annes Classical Association I was able to attend the JSST Classics and Ancient History Summer School – an experience that has helped solidify my love for Classics, and my desire to carry it on at a higher level.” (Leo)
“I would wholeheartedly and without a doubt encourage anyone with an interest in Classics or ancient history to apply to this summer school, as I can guarantee you will not regret it!” (Eleanor)
This July, two of our bursary winners attended the JSST Classical Civilisation and Ancient History Summer School at Repton School in Derbyshire and had a fantastic time! Here, Leo Riley and Eleanor Anderton give us an insight into their fab summer classics experience…
Eleanor: “The first thing any budding Classicist will notice when they enter Repton school and become introduced into the summer school environment, is how passionate and excited everyone is about the ancient world. This is a running theme that continues throughout the five-day excursion into the world of the ancients, and it is something that makes the summer school particularly unique. More importantly however, it is also the reason why I would personally push anyone and everyone thinking about studying Classics or ancient history further at A level or university, or even those just with an interest in the study of past civilisations, to apply and attend.”
One of the things that I particularly liked about the summer school was the intensity of it. Due to the fact that the course is only five days long, the teachers make sure that they fit in as much of the ancient world as they can, so that the students can get the most out of their experiences. Therefore, the structure of the day is as follows: five one-hour sessions (of which you choose from a wide range of topics), one compulsory group activity session and then rehearsals for the theatrical performance at the end of the week. Obviously, they do give you time to eat also! This packed day was perfect for me, as it meant that you were constantly meeting new people and learning new things. This is thoroughly encouraged at the summer school, and is reflected in the variety of teaching topics available; from the rise and fall of the Roman Empire to Sanskrit. Thus, the large number of topics available, combined with the fact that you are being taught for five hours a day, meant that within the space of a week, your knowledge of the ancient world, outside of the GCSE and A level syllabus, expands rapidly. This puts you in a great position for future personal statement writing.”
Leo: “I particularly enjoyed the sessions I attended on Women and Gender in Antiquity – the session was run by a tutor who clearly had a passion for the more sociological side of Classics, and that passion and enthusiasm helped to make the session engaging, even for beginners like me who had never previously studied the ancient societal standards and beliefs about gender roles in this way.
I was also happy that there was the option to study ancient languages at different levels, which provided me with the chance to try my hand at Beginner’s Ancient Greek. Thanks to these sessions, I have discovered that I have an interest in this subject area and I now plan on carrying on my journey by teaching myself Ancient Greek at home. There were also the ‘Languages at Lunch’ sessions which provided taster lessons in Hieroglyphs, Linguistics, and Hebrew. There were ‘Facts at Five’ sessions which were the same length as the compulsory lessons, and were on the tutor’s own specialist area. My favourite of these sessions was Shakespeare and the Classics, which provided an interesting insight into all of the classical influences that were hidden – or sometimes quite blatant – in the plays that I thought I was already familiar with.”
Eleanor: “Of course, the taught sessions would be nothing without the exceptional teachers preparing and delivering them. What I liked most of all was the differences between each teacher I had, for example, some of my taught sessions were delivered in a relaxed, discussion-based environment where we all sat in a circle and debated our thoughts and opinions on topics. Other sessions I experienced were taught in a more lecture-style environment, where questions could be asked and discussed at any point and where I would make reams and reams of detailed notes! And so, the differences in the teaching methods made the sessions themselves livelier, as the variation made you excited to move on from one amazing session into another equally amazing session. Also, the individualism of each session really helped to reflect the individual passion of the teachers for their subject.
Another aspect of the summer school that understandably can seem daunting, is the rehearsing and subsequent performing of an ancient comedy or tragedy at the end of the week. Where there were a number of people who naturally relaxed into the idea of taking on a role and performing, most were the exact opposite. However, the whole experience quickly becomes, whether you like drama or not, incredibly fun, because of the fact that you are not forced into any aspect of the play. If the thought of performing makes you feel sick, you have the opportunity to help out with costume or props. However, if you love the stage and performing, you are given the opportunity to dramatically throw yourself into your role, as making a fool out of yourself is simply not an option when you are surrounded by your friends.”
Leo: “I also particularly liked how those students less inclined to public performance – such as myself – were allowed to help assist in making props or directing the plays, thus letting them still be involved and express their different abilities without making them feel uncomfortable by forcing them to act. It was especially enjoyable when making dresses for the goddess as we were able to pin the fabric in the same way people in the Ancient World would have pinned their drapery up.
However, the one issue I had with the performances was the apparent inequality in the praise received by the props team and those who helped to direct the play; I felt that they did not receive as many thanks as the actors themselves did, despite the fact they also had roles that were of importance to the final production. Nevertheless, being involved in the experience itself was highly enjoyable.”
Eleanor: “Finally, the reason why I am so glad to have had attended the summer school, is because of the people I met whilst I was there – you meet such a variety of people from all around the UK, and even some from as far afield as the US. I myself attended the summer school without any friends with me, which meant that I had the amazing opportunity to make new lifelong friends, whom I am still in contact with now and hope to be in the future! Furthermore, the amazing thing about meeting these people at a Classics and ancient history summer school, is that you already have so much in common due to your love of the ancient world! This makes meeting new people and making new connections incredibly easy, which is shown by the fact that a number of those in attendance this year had come back from previous years. This in itself shows how incredibly attached you get to a group of people, and the ancient world in itself, in the space of a few days.
Leo: I would definitely recommend this Summer School to anyone interested in Classics, no matter what their skill level is or for how many years they have previously studied Classics as there is such a wide range of opportunities available. I am definitely considering attending again next year myself to experience those sessions and opportunities that I may have missed out on this time round.”
Eleanor: “I would wholeheartedly and without a doubt encourage anyone with an interest in Classics or ancient history to apply to this summer school, as I can guarantee you will not regret it!”