During our January study focus group, many young people spoke about school life and university, and how distant of a prospect it felt for them. Hearing this, our instinct was to invite JEDelve and its young people to Central London and give them a tour of UCL’s Bloomsbury campus as part of our first workshop. Ella and I planned loads of fun activities and talks, topped with some tasty Italian pasta (chosen by the young people)!
It was all hands-on-deck for this busy day. The CopeWell team was joined by 10 young people, support staff Ami and Sonny and Yara. We began the day with a questionnaire on workshop expectations followed by a tour of campus. Everyone followed along to Ella’s beautiful map of campus, which highlights the day’s tour and some tips on university accessing programs I had created.
After leaving the cosy confines of Woburn Square, we braved the gloomy London weather with endless enthusiasm. First stop, UCL Student Centre. We were greeted by the body of Jeremy Bentham – the spiritual founder of UCL. It’s safe to say the young people found it odd that we kept the body of man who died just shy of 190 years ago out in the open – the same shock and surprise to many UCL students too!
Next, through the Student Centre and into the main building, we were dazzled by the stunning architecture, we made our way upstairs to the Flaxman Gallery.
This is a cool space. It was here that we quizzed the young people about the film Inception – the room that appeared in the film. None of the young people knew about the film – perhaps showing the age of the CopeWell team. A quick jog up the staircase was the Main Library – the holy grail of the smell of old books and hardworking students. The young people quickly dispersed and got lost in the countless books on offer, unwilling to leave until we called on them again. After marvelling at the bookcases, we crossed the street over to the Grant Museum, a small and intimate space that is a biologist’s dream. Packed full of wonderful animal bones and facts, it brought centuries of biology to life. After endless amounts of finger-pointing, plenty of ooo’s and ahh’s, we finally made our way to the final destination – the Cruciform Building, where we would spend the rest of the afternoon.
In the grand lecture theatre, the young people were taken aback by the number of facilities on offer, leading to speculative guesses as to how many lecture theatres there are (we’re still trying to figure that one out). We were then joined by Evi Katsapi (Head of Undergraduate Provision at the Institute of Education), who spoke of her amazing journey to Higher Education, which undoubtedly inspired the young people who were listening intently. After Evi, Dr. Matthew Reeves (Associate Professor at the Institute of Immunity and Transplantation) and Rebecca Mason (Postdoc from the same lab) also spoke of their own journey into a scientific career.
To get to know everyone better, I planned a quick and fun icebreaker featuring a beach ball. It’s no ordinary beach ball – but one with questions asking about people’s self-perception and how they felt when the ball was passed to them. After all the ‘physical’ exercise of wakling around campus and catching beach balls, food was in order. We wind down with pasta and continued individual conversations with everyone.
Dr. Reeves surprised us with a spontaneous trip to the ‘Wet Labs’ (which piqued young people’s curiosity when they first walked past it), a lab previously used as a children’s hospital ward, where the walls adorned with beautiful portraits of children’s tales like Little Red Riding Hood. After the final short detour, we said our goodbyes to what was a long but incredibly rewarding and productive day.
Next up, we look forward to meeting the young people in two weeks’ time for Workshop 2. This time at Acton!