University of Oxford Kuala Lumpur
From 20th to 23rd July 2015, a select six of Alice Smith’s students namely Aiman Lokman, Daphne Chong, Jane Too, Jade Low, Joyce Tan and Raphaëlle Tseng attended a summer school run by the University of Oxford at Garden International School, KL. It was the first time that Alice Smith students had the opportunity to attend such an event.
Around 15 professors from Oxford flew to KL to give 175 students from both local and private/international schools all over Malaysia a taster of Oxford courses such as Geography and Biology (Extreme Environments), Biochemistry (DNA: Molecular Mysteries), Law (International Legal Order), Physics (Photons, The Universe and Higgs-Hunting), Materials Science and Engineering (The Science of Jet Turbines: Marvels of Modern Technology), PPE (International Trade and Conflict Resolution) and Mathematics and Computing (Patterns and Process). Each of the students had the chance to experience 4 of the courses, taught by Oxford professors themselves!
“The most fascinating aspect of the whole week for me was the opportunity to talk freely and openly to professors of such calibre. The passion exuded by each professor regarding their individual subject was infectious and motivating; it was eye opening and refreshing to experience an environment so full of energy and so inspiring Each member of staff from St Anne’s was more than ready to engage in conversation and answer our questions. The discussions provoked in each session really encouraged us to think and view issues from different perspectives, particularly in the PPE module where we debated current affairs. As we all come from vastly different backgrounds, everyone had an original take on situations ranging from the use of intervention with force, to ‘This house believes in fundamental human rights’. The mutual feeling of respect throughout the week created an atmosphere which gave me the confidence to ask questions, put forward my opinion and challenge other people’s ideas. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and the clairvoyance it has offered me with regards to my future.” – Raphaelle Tseng
“Going into this module, I was unsure as to how I would find it as I was originally supposed to do a Physics module instead of a Geography and Biology course. However, I found this module the most captivating of them all and I was enthralled by the different aspects of species living on the Earth. The Extreme Environments course was taught by Dr. Nick Middleton, a Supernumerary Fellow in Physical Geography and Dr. Michelle Taylor, a postdoctoral researcher, currently focusing on deep sea marine life as a zoologist. Although at first it seemed exceptionally intimidating as I was learning something I had never experienced before, such as hydrothermal vents and the Mariana Trench (the deepest part of the world’s oceans), at a level far beyond my capabilities as a Year 11 student going into their first year of A-Level, the professors made the course and the activities engaging and very age appropriate. Their holistic approach to teaching gave us a whole new perspective of the world and the way species have evolved the way they have in order to survive in such extreme environments. I feel immensely grateful to have had this experience of learning from world renowned professors at the University of Oxford, to mix with students of my age group from all over Malaysia and being exposed the bigger world that surrounds the education system. It’s definitely overwhelming to think that the people teaching you for each module are furthering the field of science for the entire world!” – Joyce Tan
“The one module I found particularly fascinating was held by the much loved professor, Dr Antonios Tzanakopoulos, specialising in Law. Most students did not have a clue as to what this session entailed in the beginning, as well as being quite abstract so I did not really comprehend some of the subject matter but as the hours drove on, we were getting into discussions from centralised and decentralised legal systems, to the determination of a state. As well as all the enthralling subjects we picked upon, the icing on the cake really was the entertaining charisma of our professor who really knew how to make us laugh and make something an undergraduate student would learn age appropriate to 16-year-olds. This experience definitely was not what I thought it would’ve been; I learnt so much, I met so many new faces from students to professors alike, and I’ve garnered a new perspective on the challenging prospect of Oxford itself.” – Daphne Chong
“We were given the opportunity to have a glimpse of what students learn if they were to take Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE). During this session, we were tasked to build a debate, which questioned the actions of political leaders and whether or not these actions supported human rights. Although the debate was intense and incredibly frustrating, it was such an experience to see other students of my age expressing their passion towards what they believed in. I was truly taken back at the talents that these students had in this field. Furthermore, we were given the chance to use electronic balloting – these were used when the lecturers asked us a questions like, “Is it right to let one person die to save another thousand?” Personally, I found this session the most difficult because it tackled the deepest part of my mind as I struggled to decide which answer was ethically right. It gave me a whole new perspective on the consequences that we achieve from our decisions.
Not only did I enjoy attending the course, but also mixing around with other Malaysian students and sharing our own opinions created such a diversity that was truly amazing. I was honored to be selected for such a prestigious event.” – Aiman Lokman
“Prior to partaking in the Maths and Computing workshop “Patterns and Process”, I will admit I came close to physically convulsing with disgust at the idea of a whole day of an aged man trying to teach us university-level maths while we just sat there and pretended to understand. However, Graham and Thomas – who vigorously insisted on the first-name basis and effortlessly debunked every intimidating stereotype of an Oxford lecturer we had – made this my favourite workshop by miles. Instead of submerging us into alien mathematical ideas, they drove home the importance of delving into the simplest of maths. From really proving why seemingly obvious multiplication works, to enchanting us with the art-like pattern of our world’s infinite prime numbers, to opening our eyes to the trickery of casinos and gambling through simple probability (all conveyed to us with raw passion, charming humour and amusing activities), Dr. Graham Nelson and Dr. Thomas Reuss brutally inspired me not to blindly accept the world with a still mind. Question how things work. Question why things work. Question far beyond the syllabus! There is an abundance of awe and beauty within the seemingly mundane. Graham ended the day by saying with a zeal I could only recognise as childlike fascination, ‘Math is tremendously beautiful.’ No matter how theatrical I sound, you have to take me seriously when I say I will forever carry with me that childlike fascination, for not only Maths but the world beyond, that these two men never ran short of.” – Jane Too
“I found Physics course was absolutely riveting. Although I had heard of terms such as the Higgs Boson (a particle which gives other particles mass) prior to the course, the expert teaching by Professor Neville Harnew and postgraduate student Ms Faye Cheung broadened my knowledge of these particles and much more. In prospect, the Oxford professors seemed intimidating but I found this to be absolutely untrue as they were quite approachable, and Professor Harnew could often be seen helping any students who encountered difficulty with the work. I learnt about the Large Hadron Collider in CERN, the Standard Model of Particle Physics, and much more beyond the IGCSE Physics syllabus. However, what I enjoyed the most was collaborating with other students to use CERN software to find the Higgs Boson, as well as to identify other particles from actual CERN data. This Oxford Physics course has really ignited my desire to study Physics at A level and beyond.” – Jade Low
Overall, the Alice Smith students thoroughly enjoyed the event, and feel on the whole that the Summer School inspired them to consider further study at Oxford. The prospect of applying to Oxford is no longer as daunting as it once was.