By Ruth Dearden
Initially, I felt apprehensive about attending the JACT Bryanston Greek Summer School. I must admit I had certain preconceptions. For instance, I was aware that I would be among predominantly young undergraduates and, as a mature postgrad myself, I wondered how I would fit in. However, I soon discovered that my fears were entirely unfounded and the experience turned out to be not only thoroughly enjoyable, but academically invaluable.
Firstly, the course has given me a foundation from which I can focus on the actual study of Ancient Greece. Having had the opportunity to learn a full semester’s worth of language studies in an intensive two weeks now means that the language aspect of my future study will not be a barrier. It will make my Masters Degree a much more enjoyable and in-depth experience. It has to be pointed out though, regardless of your own particular line of study, this course definitely will enhance anyone’s linguistic and historical skills.
There were students at Bryanston from some of the most established institutions in the country. This was, for me, another source of apprehension. Once again though, my worries were soon allayed as I discovered the atmosphere was entirely inclusive. After the initial culture shock, therefore, I found that most of the people were, like myself, there on their own and also nervous. Within a couple of days, however, the focus of the course served to unite us all and very soon we were all walking around, unreservedly chanting Ancient Greek!
I resided in the main building, which was where all the girls stayed. The boys stayed in the surrounding buildings. Everyone was assigned a house name and three tutors who you could report to and confide in if any problems arose. Being over the age of 21, I had my own room, as did my neighbour. Each room was well equipped with everything that was needed, including a desk for independent study. There was also a library, tennis & squash courts, a gym, a swimming pool and a beautiful Greek theatre. The idyllic setting of Bryanston really contributed to the enjoyability of the two weeks and the peaceful and beautiful backdrop made it the perfect place to study.
The daily itinerary was as follows: 8am Breakfast, 9.15am Session I, 10.15am Break for coffee, biscuits & private study, 11.45am Session II, 1.00pm lunch & private study, 2.30pm seminars on classical studies, 4.00pm tea and cake! 4.30pm Session III, 5.30pm break for private study, 6.30pm supper, 8.00pm evening lecture, 9.00pm hot chocolate and biscuits under the dome and a chance to meet the evening’s lecturer. In total, the course consisted of two weeks boarding and breakfast. There was 30 hours of contact time and a minimum of 30 hours independent study. On Sunday we were given the day off, apart from homework.
It wasn’t all about the ‘definite article’s’ and ‘present participles’ though, (the bar opened at 9pm). Also, the Saturday night saw a fancy dress disco. In previous years students had been given a letter of the Greek Alphabet as a personal motif. This year, the theme was ‘Villains and Heroes,’ so all the students headed down to the local village’s charity shops and donned some amazing costumes for the party. During our stay, there were opportunities to participate in the two drama productions. The first was Aristophanes comedy, ‘Clouds’, performed at the end of the first week by the students and two tutors. The second was Sophocles’ tragedy ‘Trachiniae’, performed in Ancient Greek, at the end of the final week with an exclusively student cast. Both plays were fantastic and I was amazed at how well they were organised and executed.We also were treated to a concert where the students performed in an orchestra, choir and solos. Various instruments were used – from pianos, flutes, violins and clarinets to trumpets, saxophones and even a banjo. The music varied from Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata to Bob Dylan’s (more recently Adele’s) ‘Make you feel my love.’ I was truly astounded by the talent of my fellow students.
I found out about the course through my dissertation supervisor at MMU, Dr Jason Crowley, as he teaches on the course. He very kindly invited me to apply and I was fourtunate enough to obtain a place. I have to say I feel very lucky, as without the support of the staff at MMU, particularly Jason, I would never have been afforded this wonderful opportunity. As MMU’s History Department now have the dedicated Ancient History module ‘Warrior Societies,’ I hope that more MMU students will look to attend the summer school in future.
All in all, I was made to feel welcome by everyone at Bryanston. The staff were fanatastic and really looked after us all. Not only do I now possess the skills needed to translate ancient documents, which gives me an amazing start as I embark upon my Ancient History Master’s Degree, but I have also made many new friends, tutors and students alike. I can’t reccommend the experience highly enough.
Ruth Dearden is an MMU History and English Graduate and former Social Media Coordinator for Humanity Hallows and The Student Press Office.