Thursday was a day of new experiences. A morning in cutting-edge industry and medical helped to contextualise the students’ knowledge, before an evening in the Merton Real Tennis Court, one of very few courts left in the world, gave them the chance to try out an ancient sport.
The medical students travelled to London to visit the SaIL centre at Kings College London. Built to improve key clinical skills among medical students at the leading university, the students from Merton learnt how to perform subcutaneous and intramuscular injections, basic life-saving (involving CPR, chocking and defibrillation), and catheterisation, among many other practices. In the middle of the day, students were given a break for an hour and a half, allowing them to spill out into London and see the surrounding area and its landmarks.
The Public Speaking students stayed in Oxford, where they learnt classical speaking from Isobel Collyer, a professional voice coach with immense experience.
Meanwhile, App and Web Development students travelled with the Business and Finance students to Jaguar, the car manufacturer, and Catapult, one of the UK’s leading technologically innovative organisations. At Jaguar, students learned about the company’s practices and inner workings; at Catapult, students were given two talks by the technical director, Mark Westwood. After the talks, students had the chance to test out virtual reality equipment and be a passenger in a simulated drive in an automated car, something of both great interest and great enjoyment.
Before the students were able to play on Merton’s Real Tennis court, they were given a brief history of the game by one of the College’s expert instructors. Tennis currently is a relatively simple sport; this was not always the case. Originally, tennis was a game played indoors by royalty, using smaller wooden rackets and a ball that struggled to bounce, and in a court that included walls, holes, targets to aim for and a whole plethora of interesting rules. Now, that sport has been largely forgotten; there are very few Real Tennis –that is, ‘Royal Tennis’, as it is now called to differentiate it from the common ‘Lawn Tennis’ played everywhere else— courts left, but one of them is at Merton College.
Yesterday, ORA students got the chance to learn the vagaries of this most peculiar game, following in the footsteps of Henry VIII, for whom it was a favourite sport. It was certainly popular: Reem, from Dubai, declared it ‘the perfect blend of sport, strength and strategy’, and other students concurred. Henry VIII would be proud.