Autumn Events at Yarnton Manor

While Oxford Royale Academy’s summer schools come to an end in August, our year-round courses at our International Study Centre, based in Yarnton Manor, continue into the autumn and winter.
Students at the International Study Centre take our Gap Year courses in order to prepare themselves for undergraduate or postgraduate study at some of Britain’s top universities, and to be ready to enter the world of work. In our Gap Year courses, students aged 17 to 19 study for 10 weeks, choosing from a range of courses and electives to suit their academic and career needs.
Meanwhile, University Foundation students study for 6 or 9 months, focusing on core transferable skills such as English language and study and communication skills, plus subject-specific electives to enhance their knowledge and understanding of their chosen academic field. Both types of courses include an extensive enrichment programme including debating sessions, guest lectures and cultural excursions. Enrichment activities aren’t just good fun (though that’s important too); they serve to enhance the student experience and contribute to our students’ education, across the subjects they have chosen, their English language ability, and their knowledge of British society, history and culture.
One exciting part of this enrichment programme is getting involved in British culture and traditions, and the autumn term from September to November is particularly packed with opportunities to experience these. Here are some of the activities and celebrations that ORA students at Yarnton Manor have enjoyed recently.


Carving pumpkins is a Hallowe’en tradition.

Among the traditions celebrated by students this term were Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night. Hallowe’en, on the 31st October, is celebrated widely across the world. In the UK, trick-or-treating is popular for small children. Our students got involved by carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns and used the festivities as an opportunity to raise money for the charity Children in Need, which is run by the BBC in support of disadvantaged children and young people across the UK. A total of over £100 was raised.

Bonfire Night

Fireworks are just as much a part of Bonfire Night as the bonfires themselves.

A less well-known celebration internationally is Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes Night, which is celebrated in the UK on the 5th of November. On that day in 1605, a group of Catholic dissidents planned to assassinate James I by blowing up the Houses of Parliament with gunpowder. Before they could succeed, the plot was discovered and the plotters arrested, including Guy Fawkes, who has become the best-known of the group. In celebration of his survival, James I declared Gunpowder Treason Day an annual public day of gratitude, underlined by an act of Parliament to ensure the celebration was observed. The tradition has held, and the day is now celebrated with bonfires and fireworks. Our students took the opportunity to learn about this part of British history and join in the fun.

A British Christmas

Crackers are a British Christmas tradition that are less common elsewhere.

It may have been a month early, but with Christmas music already playing in the shops, we didn’t want to let our International Study Centre students leave without having the opportunity to celebrate a traditional British Christmas. The tree may not be up yet in Yarnton Manor, but students assembled in the Main Hall to enjoy a traditional British Christmas dinner, complete with roast turkey, pigs in blankets (pork sausages wrapped in bacon), Brussels sprouts and of course, Christmas crackers. Crackers are an essential part of Christmas in the UK, Ireland and parts of the Commonwealth, so naturally our students had to experience the tradition of pulling the cracker to activate the snap, putting on the hat they found inside and sharing terrible cracker jokes with the rest of the table.
It wasn’t just the food that made this a proper Christmas celebration. Students also exchanged Secret Santa gifts so that no one left empty-handed. And – on a less traditional note – there was a fun and competitive excursion to the local bowling alley afterwards.


The final note in a season of celebrations was our very own graduation ceremony for students who were finishing their Gap Year courses with us. This was a black-tie event to which students and their parents were invited to come and toast their successes over the past ten weeks. Graduation is always a highlight of any time spent with Oxford Royale Academy, whether for a longer programme such as the Gap Year courses, or the shorter summer school courses, as it represents an opportunity to recognise and celebrate students’ achievements, and for students’ families to get to know their teachers as well. An album’s worth of photos were taken over the course of the graduation ceremony, where students received a certificate of their time spent with us in front of an audience of their friends and family – here are just a few examples:

One particular treat on the week of graduation was the glitzy première of the final piece produced by students studying the Future Filmmakers programme. Under the supervision of award-winning film producer Bruce Windwood, these students had spent the past ten weeks developing their very own short film: from initial concept, to script, to pre-production, to shooting, to post-production, all the while learning not just these practical skills in film but also gaining insight into how to succeed in this highly competitive industry.
Staff and students had the opportunity to see one Future Filmmaker’s final piece, Entropy, for the first time. This short film by student Oguz depicts a man’s struggles in his relationship and working life. The film is now available to be viewed on the Oxford Royale Academy Vimeo channel. Congratulations to Oguz on a striking and memorable film. Further examples of the work of ORA Future Filmmakers students can be found here.

A still from Entropy.

With winter now firmly upon us, we look forward to inviting more Gap Year students to join us at Yarnton Manor in January! If you’re interested in joining us for the spring term, you can find out more about the courses available on our Gap Year Programme page.