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The second Oxford for Romania Summer School inspires more grassroots initiatives

In less than a month, three of the Oxford for Romania Summer School alumni initiated an after-school for children in their school called Oxford for Romania – Oltenia. Together with 10 other volunteers, Bianca, Larisa and Florin are helping their younger peers from disadvantaged backgrounds become more self-confident and improve their creative, communication and teamwork skills. Inspired by the summer school, they organise workshops, creative activities and homework sessions every weekend at school. To support their effort, the Oxford for Romania charity has pledged £500 until the end of the school year.

Two other participants are planning to launch another non-formal education project for pupils in grades 5-7 aimed to ignite their curiosity, creativity, focus and teamwork. Ana-Maria and Paula from Iasi have created Step Up and inspired other volunteers to help them organise their first workshops this summer.

At the beginning of the year, two alumni successfully held their admission interviews at two Oxford colleges. Yet another alumna from last year started studying Mathematics and Statistics at the Sommerville College in Oxford. Other participants have been accepted at universities in the UK, The Netherlands, Germany and Romania. More have taken on more volunteer work or are learning independently about stars, philosophy, languages and other topics that inspired them during the time spent in the UK.

The Oxford for Romania community started to take shape, as most volunteers have been in touch with two or more participants, from reviewing letters of motivation to writing recommendations. Some alumni organised small group meetings in various cities and continued to keep in touch. Our volunteers also met students from both alumni generations in a meeting organised by them in Craiova.

These examples show that the Oxford for Romania Summer School is more than a short-term learning experience and can be a fruitful hub which can generate long-term positive changes.

The summer school #2 in a nutshell

Oxford for Romania Summer School #2 took place between 26 August and 3 September 2017. In total, 24 students aged 16-18 were selected out of 430 applications from all counties in Romania.

For nine intense days, students took part in a diversity of workshops, multidisciplinary activities, and lectures inspired by the Oxford teaching style. As in the previous year, the volunteer lecturers were young Romanian academics and professionals who had previous teaching experience in both formal and non-formal settings. The lectures were held in various Oxford Colleges and University of Oxford Departments.

The intensive programme included a mix of core classes and electives adapted to participants’ needs and latest research in fields like Robotics, Physics, Astronomy, Biology, Maths, Data Science, Political Culture and Civic Engagement, Public Policy, Medical Imaging, Media Literacy, Computer Graphics, Career Orientation, Neuroscience, Photography, and Linguistics. The schedule was designed with a good balance in mind between classes until dinner time and enriching activities in the evening. These included outdoor teamwork, a ‘meet the experts’ session, documentary watching and discussion, dance, a talent show, and a trip to London.

A challenging intellectual and emotional journey, the summer school proved to be ‘life-changing’ for participants, as they mentioned in the final ceremony. They discovered exciting career opportunities and gained new mentors, while boosting their self-confidence, motivation, communication skills and teamwork abilities.

“People who organised the summer school have shown me that anybody can be a superhero.” said Ana-Maria.

“At every moment of my journey I was exposed to unconditional kindness. Everyday people were good to me with inexplicable eagerness and joy. I took back this habit of desiring to do good and help others without having to explain or think of my motives. October will give me my first chance to express it. That is when we finally begin our project of sharing what we have learned with children form our cities all over the country. It is our way of saying ‘thank you’.” said Florin, co-founder of the Oxford for Romania alumni - Oltenia after school.

Now in its third year, the project will continue to offer an inspiring experience for young people with great academic potential coming from less privileged backgrounds. Our aim is to connect these young minds with the latest discoveries and help young people cultivate a growth mindset and critical thinking to become engaged citizens and future professionals who can bring a positive change in the world, wherever they are.

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