Sam's Blog

Autumn Residential Round-up

21 Jan 2015 | Sam | Schools, Visits to Cambridge

September is always a busy time for me as, with most of Downing’s students enjoying the last remaining weeks of their summer vacation at home, we look fill up their rooms with school students on residential trips!

Downing hosted four different groups from seven different schools in September 2014, each hoping to get an insight into university life and study.

ARK Kings Academy, Birmingham

Our first visit saw a group of top Year 11 students from ARK Kings Academy in Birmingham visit Downing. Although not one of our normal link area schools, we were delighted to organise this visit with the help of Ms Marshall, an ex-Downing student now teaching at the school.

The aim was to broaden the students’ horizons and illustrate the varied opportunities which higher education can offer. After some interesting tours around Newnham College and the famous King’s College Chapel, I spoke with the students about university choices and post-16 options. We followed this up with a facilitated visit to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, giving a great example of a subject many Year 11s won’t have yet come across at school. (You can check out some fantastic Archaeology and Anthropology links in our Resources section).

It was an absolute pleasure to have the group stay with us, and we wish them the best of luck for their GCSEs this year!

Okehampton College, Devon

The second September visit came in the form of 15 Year 12 students and two teachers from Okehampton College in Devon. We aimed to provide their high-achieving students with a taste of university life and deliver some early support for their future applications to selective universities.

The group asked some fantastic questions during our visits to Peterhouse, Emmanuel College and the Whipple Museum, and some free time around Cambridge gave them the chance to explore the city for themselves. I hope to see them again when I’m back in the South West this year!

Tavistock College, Devon

Tavistock College continued their usual annual residential visit to Downing, bringing a mixed group of Year 10s and 12s to Cambridge. I spoke to them about university options, courses and careers, before we had a tour around Emmanuel College and some well-deserved lunch in Downing.

Afterwards, we had a critical thinking workshop which encouraged the students to ‘think like a university student’ and pick apart a statement for discussion. Everyone really seemed to enjoy the chance to develop their own ideas and arguments – prefect preparation for university study!

Bodmin College, Sir James Smith’s School, Looe Community Academy and Fowey River Academy, Cornwall

A total of 17 students from four different schools in Cornwall made the long journey to Cambridge just before our term started. We looked to raise aspirations and give the attending students the chance to see what university can offer them.

The group were really lively and we had a great time looking around Pembroke College and discussing post-16 options and future careers. Of course, however, punting on the river will always be the highlight of a visit to Cambridge for many!

With the 2014/15 admissions round just about finished, I’m currently planning all of my South West school visits for February, March and April. I look forward to seeing lots of old and new faces very soon!


I was once a student at Downing, but now I work full-time as the School and College Liaison Officer. I'm responsible for organising our outreach work in the South West and advising students and teachers on all things Cambridge!