As the old saying goes –and the ORA motto, in homage to it— we ‘learn to travel, and travel to learn.’ It’s very clear, reviewing all that has happened in Jowett Walk these past two weeks, how clear that is. Students have travelled— and they have learned. They have learned a great deal, on trips to museums, hands-on classes with experts, and even on the sporting pitch; but they have also learned a great deal about themselves.
As Christine Luscombe-Whyte, the Programme Director in Jowett Walk, observed during her speech at the Graduation Ceremony yesterday afternoon, there are many golden moments during a fortnight at ORA. Some of the best, though, occur when a student who doubted themselves instead finds, a week or even a few days into a session, that they are surrounded by friends and enthused by what they are learning. It’s no surprise that some arrive in Oxford a little apprehensive: they are entering one of the world’s great academic cities, steeped in history, and they are challenging themselves to think as perhaps never before. But yesterday, as awards were handed out at the ceremony, and as it dawned on students that they will soon be hugging each other goodbye, it was wholly apparent that they have all succeeded. They’ve travelled, and they’ve learned.
In the evening, with the ceremony and its inspirational speeches still lingering in conversation, there was the final party: a Narnia-themed extravaganza in St Peter’s College. Counsellors were dressed up as knights of Cair Paravel, there were ample photo opportunities among the props –models of deer and snow-covered fir trees were particularly popular—and the traditional painted boards, which when students put faces behind their holes had them transformed into the faun Mr Tumnus, or the young girl Lucy Pevensie. The party was a wonderful success. There was more food and drink than the students could possibly eat, even determined to do justice to it as they were; there were games and challenges in which to take part, including one fiendishly difficult balancing test— but best of all, there was the dance floor. The students in Jowett have become incredibly close to each other over the past fortnight, and some friendships have been forged which will surely last for years. To be able to dance the night away was absolutely delightful.
When the time came for the curfew to be announced, and for students to swap their dancing shoes for slippers, there was understandably some sadness. Tomorrow, everybody will disperse, to reminisce about nights spent chatting and dancing and days spent exploring and playing. We wish all of our students everything that they could hope for— and for ourselves, we hope to see them all again next year.