What a university summer school did for me…

Anne-Marie Canning, the Head of the Widening Participation department at King’s College London, was one of those students who won a place on a life-changing university summer school. Here’s her story.

“I owe a lot to the old, creaky fax machine in Doncaster that whizzed off my Sutton Trust Summer School application in the nick of time about ten years ago. I was in the common room late on a Friday afternoon when my teacher pushed a form in front of me with the words, ‘I’ve just found this summer school thing and I think you should apply. We’ve got half an hour, so hurry!’ I didn’t have much time to think about which course to apply for so ticked the thing I liked doing most at that point in time: reading books, English Literature.

My mum was over the moon when a letter came through the post telling me I’d won a place, and I promptly set about reading all the books by authors I’d never heard of, like James Joyce’s ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’. They were not easy books to read but it made me realise that the summer school meant business and would be intellectually challenging.

Fast-forward to August and there I was in the glorious summer sunshine at the gates of the University. I felt a kick of homesickness in my stomach but steadied my nerves and went to the sign in desk, where I met by a group of friendly undergraduate students. They showed me to my room and told me what I could expect from the week ahead.

The summer school involved all sorts of exciting things I’d never had the chance to do before, like watch a Shakespeare play, debate my ideas, listen to a lecture, have a tutorial and experience the freedom of an entire library. And as well as learning a lot about my chosen subject I also learnt a lot about myself during that week.

I learnt that there were lots of like-minded people out there, and that they were just as clever (if not more clever!) than me. I also learnt that my northern accent was much, much stronger than I ever imagined it to be! I made some good friends, too, and we all ended the week with a swanky dinner. I went home happy and determined to work hard and get good AS-level grades.

That Autumn I applied to lots of highly selective universities and made sure I talked about my summer school experience in my personal statement. The Autumn after I joined the University of York as a student of English and Related Literatures, and ten years later I am now the head of the team that will be running the Sutton Trust Summer School at King’s College London.

This blog post first appeared on the King’s College website