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Year 12 student, Natalie Whitham, had the great privilege of being selected for a week-long summer school at Oxford University, as part of the UNIQ Programme. In this post, Natalie gives us a blow-by-blow account of this life-changing experience.

Day 1 – Saturday
This was it! The morning that I set off to the University of Oxford to participate in the UNIQ Oxford Summer School. My journey started at Accrington train station, where I caught my first of three trains in total (on my own!!!). This was a terrifying experience for me as I have never done it by myself before, so it was uncertain whether or not I would be able to navigate myself around. I first changed at Preston, got the London Euston train to Wolverhampton and then changed to the Bournemouth train which stopped at Oxford.

The entire journey lasted around 4 hours in total which was exhausting but the excitement of it all kept me going! I arrived at the University and, when signed in, was placed in University College for the week. As soon as I got there I fell in love – it was beautiful. 

After this the night consisted of playing different icebreaker games to allow us all to get to know each other a little. All in all, the first day was a huge success.

Day 2 – Sunday
Kicking off with an early start at 7:45am, I fuelled myself up at breakfast ready for a day of admissions activities. During the day I attended several lectures and workshops on how to write a competitive personal statement, the admissions tests (specifically the LNAT for myself) and interviews. This was highly informative and I found this to be a useful activity to partake in, especially as I hope to apply to Oxford in the forthcoming months.

After this, we had the opportunity to have a tour of the city of Oxford in order to gain our bearings and to explore the beauty and history of the city itself. The city is absolutely stunning – everything is picturesque! During this we visited another college – Worcester College, which is just as breath-taking as University College, if not prettier.

After our evening meal (had to be a Sunday roast!) we strolled through the city to a theatre building where we watched a performance by the Oxford Imps, a comedy group of Oxford students. This show was hilarious, I didn’t want it to end! After an intense, long day of activities it was time for an early night before starting the main academic programme on Monday.

Day 3 – Monday
Today was an exciting introduction to the academic sessions in Law. We began by listening to a lecture on the various types of legal courses they have on offer at Oxford, before moving on to the main lecture with the focus on Causation in Criminal Law. Fortunately for me, I have already studied this to an extent during my A2 and GCSE Law course so was able to comprehend the information being delivered reasonably quickly as well as recognise a few of the cases. It was brilliant to explore causation in more depth though! My understanding of it has increased significantly.

At lunch time, we had the opportunity to roam Oxford city centre. This was fantastic – it was completely unexpected how busy it was!
Upon arrival back at the Law Faculty, I attended 2 workshops: ‘How to Study Law’ and ‘An Introduction to Legal Sources’ – both of which I found to be particularly useful. As part of the sources workshop we travelled to the Bodleian Law Library in which we viewed a series of reports dating back to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605!
Also, the library had just received an exclusive copy of all volumes of the Chilcot Report into the War on Iraq – topical!

Day 4 – Tuesday
I knew it was going to be an intense day today. The academic session began with 3 lectures:

Causation in Negligence (Causal Conundrums), An introduction to Roman Law and
The Use and Abuse of the Corporate Form.

After lunch, we had a workshop where we were introduced to Mooting. This is essentially a mini-trial, however it usually takes place in a mock appeal court where counsellors argue on a point of law in need of discussion. As part of UNIQ, we’re required to participate in one of these and were given the facts of the case ‘R v Death’ to argue in terms of causation. I am ridiculously nervous for this, however the fact that I will be put out of my comfort zone will definitely build my confidence as well as skills in advocacy and presentation. It appears to be a lot of fun to carry out the research for it so hopefully everything will run smoothly.

Later on in the day we attended the Alumni Dinner at Balliol College. Before we had the meal we received a tour of the college & the library (see below) as well as having a Q&A session with an alum of the university who is now a successful Human Rights Solicitor in a London Law firm. The food at the college was absolutely delicious. It was so rich and full of flavour, I enjoyed it a lot. I have to say my favourite part of it was the dessert!

Day 5 – Wednesday

Today began with some Skills Training delivered by the Careers Service at Oxford University. We were taught how to write a successful cover letter as well as several steps to take when applying for different roles.

Linklaters (one of the Magic Circle law firms in London) presented a Networking workshop where we learned how to properly network with professionals and how we should act in a networking environment.

The rest of the day consisted of preparing for the Moot (taking place tomorrow) and then after our evening meal we ventured out to University Parks to play a range of different sports activities before having a quiz back at College.

Day 6 – Thursday

Today was a big day! I anxiously got my way through breakfast this morning, nervous for the moot which took place at 11:00am. I had prepared for it so knew that I would perform decently, however with this being my first moot ever it was fear of the unknown. Surprisingly, it was relatively chilled out. I received a lot of positive feedback for the arguments I submitted, the structure of the submissions and how it was delivered which has boosted my confidence considerably. The fact that I was so out of my comfort zone in doing this and it was my first ever moot makes me proud to have achieved the outcome of participating in this.

The afternoon consisted of preparation for our tutorial (on causation) which will take place tomorrow. I enjoyed discussing the problem-based questions the most because they were similar to that of what I’m used to at A-Level.

After an intense day of academia, it was time to celebrate our final night in Oxford. The night started with a drinks reception at Balliol College before coming together with everybody involved in UNIQ this week (over 150 people) to have a formal dinner. It was possibly the best meal I have had all week! After this we had what is known as the BOP, which was a fancy dress party located at the Emporium Nightclub in the city centre. We were required to wear something beginning with the letters U, N, I or Q, so I wore a Queen’s costume but in a medieval style. Tonight was the best possible way to celebrate the week – I enjoyed every minute of it!

This was followed by a farewell BBQ at University Club to celebrate the brilliance of the week. I was absolutely gutted to leave, Oxford was phenomenal.

I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to have participated in the UNIQ Oxford Summer School this week. It may have been incredibly intense at parts with so many events timetabled in but it was all worth it and, looking back over the week now, I realise how much I actually did and how many skills I have developed through getting involved. There are so many memories I will take away from this experience and friends I have made throughout it – I know I will definitely be applying to the University of Oxford this year!

What an excellent ambassador for the Academy. Next stop: applications in September! Watch this space for further updates on Natalie’s progress