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Science Taster Day at Clare College Cambridge for BAME students

On Monday 3rd February, five BAME students were selected from our school to go on a science taster day to Cambridge University’s Clare College.

Firstly, ‘BAME’ stands for ‘Black, Asian and minority ethnic’ and this event was part of an outreach programme by the college to encourage more students from diverse backgrounds to apply and break the stigma of Cambridge only accepting privileged individuals, keeping in mind that BAME also includes white minorities as well. The whole day was resonating a message of empowerment to apply no matter where you are from, if you've got what it takes, your background shouldn’t stop you from getting into the university.

The day started with us getting a coach from Coventry station at precisely 8 am and enduring two hours on the road. When we arrived at the city of Cambridge, we could already spot some of Cambridge’s 31 colleges and excitement started to fill our coach as we passed by the majestic Trinity college and finally arrived at Clare. There to meet us was Chris, the school’s liaison officer who was the face behind the emails we were receiving about any updates on the trip. We then thanked our lovely driver and headed to register our names at the Clare Conference centre.

Then, we got a warm welcoming introduction to our day from the college’s current and former BME officers. The hall was already filled with other students who had come from London and I was surprised to see such a diverse bunch. We then had a very insightful talk from an admissions officer, Professor Howard Griffiths, about how he narrows down the applicants and what we need to do to get on that final list. He informed us about everything from applying, to if GCSE grades mattered, to if EPQs were important. He informed us on how the selection process was very unbiased and also considers the student’s background and the schools they achieved their GCSEs and A-levels from; they look at the schools’ passing rate and choose students after considering that so the selection process is as fair as it can be.

Afterwards, we had small group sessions with a PhD student. My group was combined with another so there were 10 of us being taught by a cardiologist, who also interviews applicants. Her session was very intriguing as she talked us through graphs and two case studies, and gave us an insight into what might happen in an interview. She gave us tips on thinking out loud and being super prepared if you are applying for a degree in science or medicine.

After the group sessions, half of us went for lunch and the other half went on a tour of Clare and Trinity college. The grounds of Trinity college were very historic with some of the doors being as old as the building. The college was very traditional as well, with porters walking the entrances wearing bowler hats and formal attire.

My favourite part was the beautiful enclosed court yards and Neville’s court in particular, where we stood where Sir Isaac Newton himself stood when he measured the speed of sound. We were also told that there is a preserved lock of his hair stored in the library at the college amongst many other fascinating artefacts like 1st edition Shakespeare books.

Upon returning from our tour, we had our lunch and proceeded to a panel talk led by the youtuber and Cambridge graduate, Ibz Mo. There were other students from different societies/clubs within the university that talked about the different opportunities to get involved. They answered various questions from the audience and talked about their journey to applying and getting into Cambridge. The talk was very motivating as they talked about giving it a shot no matter what your circumstances are. Everyone found the humour filled panel interesting and they eliminated any sort of intimidation we felt at the start of the day about Cambridge.

We then had some time to talk to the graduates about any questions we had and they were all super kind and genuine and spent a good deal of time talking to us and encouraging us to apply.

Sadly, the day came to an end when we returned to our coaches and headed back on the road.

Here are what some other students on the trip with me said:

‘It was very informative and a lot different to what I expected, I’m glad I took the opportunity’ Sunita, 12D

‘Personally, it was such a motivating experience and it really humanized not just Cambridge but the medicine course I wanted to do.’  Kusum 12

Article written by Amanda Jayasingah Arachchige