Travel on a grant

8th January 2020

News, Student news, Alumni news

Making travel plans? Read how Wadham students used alumni funded travel grants to take part in the Edinburgh Fringe, play football in California and discover Langur monkeys in Penang.

  • At Arthur's Seat

    At Arthur's Seat

  • Rehearsal
  • student performance
  • student performance

Ambitions to be a theatre producer left Morag Campbell (Jurisprudence, 2016) sleeping on floors and ‘flyering’ at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Some people spend their first summer after grauation on holiday, or starting their new career. I spent mine sleeping on the floor of a two-bedroom flat I shared with six other people. Unfortunately, this seems to be what you have to do if you want a career in producing, and I had decided that I did.

I produced Numbers, Oxford University Dramatic Society’s national tour for 2019. Numbers was a new show about one man’s struggle with mental illness. It was performed at four theatres around the country: the Bread and Roses in London, the Rialto theatre in Brighton, C Aquila at the Edinburgh Fringe, and the Old Fire Station in Oxford.

Producing a student show is a pretty hands-on job, and you never know what you’ll end up doing on any given day. At our Brighton show, I had to learn how to operate the lighting desk during a show. Luckily, the reviewer didn’t comment on our unusual design choice to alternate between blue UV lighting and total darkness. In Edinburgh, our flyers were delivered to the wrong address, and we were forced to use playing cards with the show’s title and start time written on them in permanent marker.  I can’t count the number of angry voicemails I left for insurance companies, or the number of dirty looks I got for trying to fit five chairs on the overhead racks of the packed London to Edinburgh train.

The longest stretch of the tour was at the Edinburgh Fringe, where I lived for the month with the rest of the cast and crew. The Fringe is a unique experience: where else can you find 3000 shows from 63 countries in one city? There wasn’t much time off. We had a show every day, and spent the rest of the day flyering (3000 shows means lots of competition) and seeing other shows. I saw everything from circus acts to serious drama, and from some of the best things I’ve ever seen to the worst.

I won’t pretend everything I tried to do on the tour went to plan – even climbing Arthur’s Seat resulted in me scrambling up an almost sheer rockface, in the dark – but it was an unforgettable experience. I met loads of people I would never have met otherwise, put on an amazing show and, eventually, learnt to use a lighting desk. None of it would have been possible without the Wadham travel grant.

“A dream come true” is how Patrick Collins (MBiochem Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, 2016) describes the Blues US football tour against some of the best teams California has to offer.

Having played a season of football for the Oxford Blues team I was delighted to be invited on the Blues Football West Coast Tour 2019.

The trip began the morning after our Varsity match against Cambridge, and so there were some reasonably sore heads in Heathrow airport. Nevertheless, we hopped on a flight to San Francisco excited to show the USA what real football looks like. 

We spent two nights in San Francisco, which is now one of my favourite places on the planet. The highlight was a morning trip to Alcatraz prison followed by an 8-hour stint in the infamous Moby Dick bar, leading to my good friend Harry Langham hailing the day as one of his greatest ever. Blessed by perfect weather and two dollar pints, I struggle not to agree with him. 

After a couple days to acclimatise to the greatest country on Earth, we set off in rental cars to play against University of California, Berkeley. Rocking up to play in a 60,000-capacity bowl stadium was surreal, especially as there was only about 6 spectators. Like many of the colleges we play against in the states, Berkeley are a top sporting University, blessed by the ability to offer full scholarships to members of their football teams. Still, we managed to do ourselves proud, walking off after a 2-0 defeat reasonably happy with our day’s work. We then spent the night socializing with the Berkeley boys and learning about their longstanding hatred of the Stanford Soccer team…

The following morning, we set off to Google HQ in Silicon Valley for a tour of the facilities and a match against the ‘Google XI’. It’s fair to conclude that the Google employees are perhaps not as gifted on the football pitch as they are off it. Winning 10-0 is not often a very rewarding experience, but with matches against two of the best sides in the USA to follow we made sure to enjoy it and rack up the goal stats. 

Next up was Stanford. It’s not easy to put Oxford to shame, but the Stanford campus and lifestyle certainly does that. Slightly bewildered as to why we slave away at our degrees rather than studying Social Policy in California, we headed over to the footy pitches to meet our opposition. As promised by the Berkeley boys, the Stanford team was made up of incredibly good footballers, but incredibly bad blokes. We parked the bus for 90 minutes and walked off with a hard fought 4-0 defeat. 

With most the football out of the way, se wet off for the bus-trip of a lifetime; three days and nights driving around Yosemite National Park. These few days in the mountains will never be forgotten- unquestionably the best time of my life. 

Our final match of tour was against University of California, Irvine- just outside of Los Angeles. A bit of an internet search on our way to the game revealed that Irvine had recently beaten Mexico U17s, and had only narrowly lost to an MLS side involving famous players such as Giovinco and Victor Valdes. We turned up expecting an embarrassing day at the office, but ended up achieving the impossible. Our centre forward surprised everyone by shooting direct from kick off. The ball sailed over the head of the astonished goalkeeper and the dream was alive. Doing what we do best, we applied the handbrake to the metaphorical bus and sat in deep to soak up the pressure from a very talented Irvine side. In an incredible second half spell, we hit Irvine three times on the counter attack and walked off the pitch having beaten one of the best college sides in the States 4-2. That’s four to us, and two for them. 

Elated, we headed back to Los Angeles for some beers on the beach. For the next few days we relaxed in the most relaxed city on Earth before catching a flight home from LAX.

These two weeks in California were incredible- I’m extremely grateful to college for the financial support that made this trip possible. Getting to play football half the way around the world with my mates during the Easter before my final exams is not something I grew up thinking about, but was very much like a dream come true.  

  • monkeys
  • students

Louis Egerton Legum (Biology, 2018) discovered Dusky Leaf Langur monkeys in the rainforests of Penang

I am very grateful for the grant funded by Wadham college’s Marsden bequest and it allowed me to take on an internship in Malaysia. I am particularly passionate about wildlife and ecosystem conservation, hence being able to see the practical side of a conservation project was such a great opportunity for me. 

The internship itself was working in the rainforests of Penang Island with the Langur project Penang (LPP).  The LPP is an inspiring citizen science project led by the equally inspiring Jo Leen Jap. Jo Leen was a fantastic supervisor over the duration of my trip and taught me so much, not only about conservation, but about the importance of the interface between conservation and the public. The LPP specialises in studying the behaviour and ecology of the Penang’s resident Dusky langurs, and have been doing so with great success since 2016. Raising awareness and educating the public about the challenges faced by langurs and other wildlife in an urban environment is crucial role of the LPP. A recent success story for the LPP (and langurs) was the permission to install the proposed canopy bridges over roads to reduce the number of langurs killed by cars. As a consequence of Penang’s rainforest becoming increasingly fragmented by the clearing of forests to build roads, langurs are being forced to cross roads more frequently in an attempt to occupy their normal habitats. Tragically this has resulted in many more killed on the roads each year, however the canopy bridges are designed to allow safe passage above the roads to reduce this issue. 

For the internship, my role was to record environmental data from the habitats of the langurs using various sampling techniques. This data could then be analysed for use within Jo Leen’s behavioural analysis of multiple langur troops to see the effect of increasing habitat fragmentation based on road ecology which would underpin her PhD. Specifically, my work constituted using a GPS to navigate the rainforest and locate randomly generated waypoints at which to sample the environment. The recordings we would take included distance to closest roads, water sources and human settlements from each corner of the 10m quadrat. The canopy and ground foliage composition was assessed by recording tree species and their dimensions. The amalgamation of this data produced an extensive bank of background information that the analysis of langur behaviour could be viewed against. I worked on this project for 3 weeks, primarily with another intern called Khai Xian from USM but joined later by Elizabeth Biggs. The work was physically draining as moving through such dense vegetation in high humidity from the early hours of the morning was quite challenging. However it did teach me a lot about the practical side of conservation and the problems that are faced in the field. This insight would undoubtedly be useful in whatever aspect of conservation that I end up pursuing.  

Overall the experience was an incredibly enjoyable one, not only was internship great but I had the pleasure of getting to know some remarkably dedicated and passionate people. Their determined attitude towards protecting the environment and its inhabitants despite lack of sympathy from authoritative bodies was amazing to see. It has left me very proud to be a part of the LPP family.

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