Summer Schools in the making: lists and resolutions


New Year – a time of celebration, of new beginnings, fresh starts, plans and resolutions. Along with the celebrating (and no, alas, I did not go to see any of the firework displays ‘live’) there’s a great tradition here of making a list of resolutions (exercise more, lose weight, attend to some plan which has been ‘on hold’ for far too long), and an even greater one of breaking all those resolutions in record time. A work colleague just caught me having the second coffee of the morning and rummaging in the biscuit (US transl.: ‘cookie’, universal transl.: ‘sugar/fat/salt/calories’) tin. I justified the action with: ‘I have resolved to feel less guilty about eating biscuits’, privately realising that the diet was not off to a good start. But I also recollected some remark I’d overheard somewhere (radio?) about the belief that we can choose to be more positive and optimistic, rather than choosing to be negative and pessimistic. And choosing to be more optimistic, and a little more realistic, about New Year plans seemed rather more sensible than making a long list of things that were very hard to achieve. 

Before we broke for the holidays I put on a spurt to work through a very long work ‘to do’ list, finding great motivation in beating that looming deadline to cross off as much as possible. After a long break away, it’s time to get back to the work list … The period between now and April is challenging (as always!) but enjoyable. First and foremost, it’s the time when we start to see large numbers of applications coming in for the courses – either via mailed applications or online. We check numbers each week to see how this year’s enrolment figures compare with records stretching back 20 years, and watch to see which courses fill first. Large numbers of applications and enquiries come in, and there’s a lot of work to do to keep up with these. We’re also posting advertisements, to ensure we reach new groups of people who might be interested in attending. (If you are reading this, then we have reached you, but you might have good ideas to share with us for places to advertise, or, if you have attended one of our programmes before, you might think of a local publication to which you could send a review.) 

Spring is also the time of year when we progress plans for excursions, attend to a great many logistical exercises in support of the teaching programme, check (with the help of the Programme Directors) all of the course materials, and work to complete the team-taught courses and the plenary programmes. There are well over 100 plenary talks to arrange, and we approach people whose lectures and subject areas have proved very popular in the past, as well as a wide range of new speakers. As a taster, we already have on the list lectures which will address: medieval surgery and medicine, Chaucer and technology, medieval tapestries, ancient empires in Afghanistan, the Roman Empire, Alexander the Great, the end of Empire, the Enigma machine……. As the lists expand and titles are finalised, we’ll post speaker and lectures on the web pages for each programme. 

And although the ‘normal’ application route is already open for this new programme, we’ve still to set up the online application process for the Silk Route, and the Online Resource Centre for all of the programmes, where we can post materials, notices, and chat room space, for people to access as soon as their applications have been accepted. 

So… lots to be getting on with.   I think I might just need another biscuit. That would increase my sense of well-being and the layer of ‘insulation’ to fend of cool weather. On the other hand, if I resist it, that will increase my sense of virtue. I can’t lose! See: ‘choosing optimism’ is working already. 

We’re hoping the one resolution you make - and keep - this year is to join us for one of the University of Cambridge International Programmes!