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Week 6: Pupil report on the Pre-University Programme

We welcomed two special guests during Week 6 of the Pre-University Programme. Pupil Rebecca C reports…

Life Skills Masterclasses

Tuesday 2 June: ‘Global and Local as Sources of Identity’

On Tuesday, our Life Skill Masterclass was given by Kwame Anthony Appiah – a British-Ghanaian philosopher, culturist, novelist and OB; Anthony has won many awards and honours and currently lectures at NYU in Philosophy and Law. He spoke about identity, a theory of justice, the danger of generalisations and the importance of a ‘Cosmopolitan cohabitation’, a society where all human beings, regardless of their different affiliations, are (or should be) citizens in a single community. Identities can become the basis of superiority, privileges and a foundation for laws and rules, when applied to political identities, as Anthony says, “it is less by what we think, but that of what we are”. By exploring theories of justice such as the Contact Hypothesis, Anthony offered us solutions where interpersonal contact between groups can reduce prejudice.

Referencing Cosmopolitanism’s origins in Ancient Greece and Rome, Anthony allowed me to see the simple picture: all humans inhabit the same big city and we should respect all individuals within the community. This strikes me as something we ought to remember, internalise, and practise – especially in these times of fearmongering, xenophobia, Brexit, Trumpism and systemic racism. His talk was intellectually engaging, and I want to thank Anthony for giving his time to come and speak to us.

Thursday 4 June: ‘Why looking after your mental health can make you cleverer’

In our second Life Skills Masterclass of the week, Natasha Devon MBE spoke to us about, “Why looking after your mental health can make you cleverer”. Natasha is a writer, campaigner and pundit who has dedicated her life to promoting positive wellbeing, body image, gender and social equality. She also continues to fight for the importance of recognising and valuing mental health as her various roles help to support children, young people and adults all across the world.

Her focus was on managing academic pressure, uncertainty and anxiety; she spoke about the importance of making the mental health conversation relevant, and the false narrative that academic achievement should take precedence over your mental health, stressing the fact that it is not a binary choice. We don’t have to have one over the other.

Her five tips from doing something daily to release endorphins, dealing and recognising the relationship that perfectionism and procrastination play, not juggling too many ‘thought balls’ and finding your intrinsic motivation; Natasha spoke about it an engaging, entertaining and informative manner. Her clear focus on what support and advice young people need now, rather than recycling the past, meant it was clear the discussion still plays a pivotal role in society today. She also spoke about many useful apps and reliable resources to deal with anxiety for yourself or helping others, and in these current uncertain and strange times. I would like to thank Natasha for her time in continuing to spread the message that the discussion surrounding mental health is a significant part of society.

Rebecca C (A2)

Pre-University lectures

Like Week 5, this week’s programme included a number of OBs leading lectures on a variety of topics. A2s interested in Sociology & Anthropology were given a crash course in Social Anthropology from OB Professor Rebecca Empson (UCL).  

OB Dr Peter Rudebeck, who is a Professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai Medical School (New York), spoke to the Psychology, Biology and Medical Pre-University groups about ‘The role of the amygdala and emotion’.

The Art History pupils were treated to a lecture from art curator Edouard Sebline, opening their horizons to possible career paths after university.