Applying for postgraduate study was for me like working on a puzzle: Essentially it was about putting different pieces from our academic history together to form a meaningful, coherent and appealing picture of what we did. The admission committee will look at that picture, and if it meets their requirements, hopefully they will let us in.
In my application to the Master’s programme in English Studies at Aarhus University (Denmark), where I am now enrolled as a student, SUISS stood out as a very important piece of the puzzle (or in a punny way of speaking, you can call it the “master piece” of my application). I studied Contemporary Literature at SUISS in the summer of 2018, just after I finished by BA. And I always thought it strange how those short two weeks in Edinburgh could help me so much in working towards where I am now.
But it all makes sense. SUISS was the most intensive learning experience I ever participated in. To prepare, we had to read six whole books and a bunch of excerpts from short story and poetry collections. Every weekday we had a thematic lecture by literary scholars from different universities in the U.K, followed by a seminar with our tutor where got to look more intimately at different aspects of the text under study. So two weeks wasn’t long, yes, but at the end of the programme our minds were all bubbling with exciting names, concepts and ideas. SUISS actually inspired a classmate of mine to write her Master’s thesis on one of the authors that we studied in the course. Isn’t that amazing?
You also have the option of doing a written assessment if you want to receive academic credits from the course. This might be useful for those who want to further their studies into English literature but otherwise come from an academic background where literature isn’t a focus (Since some universities might require applicants to possess a specific number of credits in the subject that they are applying for). So I wrote a 2000-word essay, which came back some two weeks after its submission with a grade and very detail comments by my tutor. I later used that essay as a “writing sample” in my application for Master’s study. Plus I got a fancy academic transcript, which I also included in the application pack.
Before SUISS, I had been shuffling around in different subfields of English studies – linguistics, cultural studies, translation studies, etc. – not really knowing which area to focus on. After SUISS, however, I knew firmly that I want to be a literature student. Everything was so inspiring: the lectures, the coffee talks, the readings by guest authors, and most of all the extensive discussions with my classmates and tutor, who, like me, love to indulge ourselves in the pleasure that language and the imagination have to offer.
Many of the friendships that I made at Edinburgh remain with me even now. SUISS has become for us like a tradition, or an “imagined community” if you will, which we feel ourselves attached to, to which we look back with longing and nostalgia every summer. I hope what I write here has given you a perspective of what is in store for you at SUISS, and motivates you to take a bold step towards this incredible opportunity.
I didn’t think about my students when I was in Edinburgh this summer. I meant to, of course. But I didn’t. I didn’t think about them when I was investigating every cafe that JK Rowling might have written in, when I was attending poetry readings in large white rooms with abstract black and white art, or when I was being drenched with rain while we all climbed Arthur’s Seat. I didn’t think about them when I was writing for hours in any cafe that would have me, or when I was falling in love with everything my peers had written, or when my friends and I would walk into pubs with freshly signed books of poetry clasped in our hands. I didn’t think about them at all.
I didn’t think about my students at all this summer. But when it was time to start attending those ever so inspiring day long meetings at the end of August, when it was time to arrange desks in my room and figure out how to work the new smart board, I did not have the same sense of anxiety that normally creeps in during the first week of August. I did not mourn the summer, or wonder aloud where all the time had gone. I knew where it had gone. It was in cups of coffee from Brew Lab, it was in Fringe posters that lined any available surface in Edinburgh, it was on the table that my seminar group gathered around three times a week, it was in the snooze button that could only be pressed once because there was so much fun to be had and so much work to do. It was in the first four chapters of my novel.
I didn’t think about my students at all this summer. But when school started again, the first thing I told them about myself was that I spent the summer writing in Edinburgh. I told them about the poetry evenings, how I *almost died* when I went hiking in Glencoe by myself, and how they are seniors and they could absolutely spend their next summer what I had just spent my summer doing too. And when we started writing our personal essays I brought out poems and flash fiction that we’d studied in seminar. And when we had one on one appointments I told them to “let all the verbs and nouns do the heavy lifting” and I told them to take out their sentences that were only a six or a seven so that their nines and tens had full range to shine. Everything that I had learned this summer while I was absolutely not thinking about my students came spilling out into my classroom.
This summer, I recommend that you don’t think about your students. Not for one single second. Instead, think about yourself. Pour your attention into your own work. Read new things. Discuss it all with new people. Also, do it all in Edinburgh. Art and literature are what keep the cobblestones glued together there. Fall in love with writing and with literature all over again. Fall in love with your own work. When you come home you will feel fresh, and it will all come pouring out into your classroom. I promise.
When I learned about the ESU scholarships and SUISS program in Theatre and Performance, I knew I had to go for it. I am in my 11th year as a Theatre and English high school teacher on Long Island, and I have been eager for an opportunity to broaden my knowledge. From the moment I arrived at the University of Edinburgh dorms, I was warmly welcomed by the staff and our student leaders. I was pumped for a new experience, and eager to get settled and see what was in store for me. When I made my way to my room and opened the curtains, I found myself face-to-face with Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano at the edge of Edinburgh. This was the moment where I realized this experience was going to be more than I had expected.
Too often for teachers, the professional development we experience is chosen for us. It is not often (at least for me) that we get to decide what to study and to be able to go in-depth with those studies. Applying for the Theatre and Performance SUISS program and the scholarship available through ESU was one of the few opportunities I have found to take charge of my own professional development.
This program provided me with the chance to both learn about different viewpoints on modern theatre, but also give me the space to see how these can be applied to my own teaching. In our daily seminars, I got to be a student again, listening and engaging in conversations about theatre that I have not been able to have in years. Teachers are still students at heart, so I am always eager to listen and engage with others. A few times each week, we participated in various workshops throughout the two weeks. These workshops focused on such topics as acting, clowning, playwriting, and storytelling, all run by professionals in the field. Each workshop gave me ideas to bring back to my students, whether it was the “15 Rules of Acting” from Ali D’Souza and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, or clowning activities with Tim Licata from Plutot la Vie, this program served as a refresh button on my theatre teaching practices.
One of the best parts of this program was meeting other teachers and growing and learning with them. I found a small teacher tribe here, and while we all teach at different schools around the country, as theatre teachers, we are often part of very small departments, or even one-person departments working alone. Here, we had other people who knew all too well the struggles we all face. We commiserated, as well as discussed all the different ways we could implement what we were learning.
One of the biggest takeaways for me came in our workshop with playwright Jo Clifford. Jo told us “theatre is a gymnasium of empathy.” If my theatre classes can teach students empathy as they go out into the world, then I will consider myself a successful teacher. SUISS provided me with the chance to develop new ideas for teaching and sharpen the tools I already have.
Listen to 2016 SUISS Alumni Can Öztürk chart his path from the Text and Context Modernism course at SUISS to graduating with an MSc in Literature and Modernity at the University of Edinburgh in 2018.
“The seminars were led by enthusiastic academics and writers, and the groups were culturally very diverse, which helped incredibly in uncovering different ways of thinking about texts and contexts. There were also many events to take you around different parts of Edinburgh and reveal to you its many beauties.”
We were delighted to hear our 2016 Alumni Elspeth Reilly talk to the University of Edinburgh about her experience of the SUISS Creative Writing course and how it helped prepare her for further study at the University.
“this is a program of talented and dedicated professors, all passionate about the craft of writing, who are invested in your growth as a writer”
You’ve checked out the brochure, the books and the tutors, but what’s SUISS really like? Here’s our amazing 2018 alumni Sarah Paterson on her experience of the Creative Writing course. We just love the creative way she’s summed it up. #suissin60seconds
Watch our talented 2018 Alumni Kristen Cervenak explains what studying creative writing at Scottish Universities’ International Summer School is like in under 60 seconds… wow! #SUISSin60Seconds
Don’t just take our word for it, here’s our wonderful Charles Wallace fellow from 2018 Amrita Shenoy explaining why a summer at SUISS is for literature lovers everywhere – in just 60 seconds! #SUISSin60seconds
To all our lovely Alumni (students and staff): We want to hear about your experience and what SUISS means to YOU too! Join the #suissin60seconds campaign and upload your video and/or photos to our Facebook or Instagram page, and share with us your favourite SUISS memories!