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Every July/August in the UK, a two-week summer school is run for students of Ancient Greek. Organised by the Joint Association of Classics Teachers (JACT), it takes place at a boarding school called Bryanstone, in Dorset. It caters for a wide array of abilities, from complete beginners to seasoned linguists, and whilst the majority of people there are 17-21, you get plenty of people from other age groups, too, up to the age of 25.

The Course is taught by some of the finest academics in the land, and a whole host of Oxbridge professors deliver both the nightly (voluntary) lectures and the thrice-daily lessons. In every way, it’s a pretty intense experience, combining an eclectic blend of heavy drinking, overeating and massively difficult translation of Greek authors, from Homer to Lithias. Whilst Oxford and Cambridge both support the course thoroughly (my Oxford interviewer told me this year that if I was offered a place my attendance would be required), they did warn students at the Classics open day earlier this year of Bryanstone’s “notorious” social life.

The day starts with an hour’s lesson at 8:45, usually beginning with a test on the declension of particularly heinous verbs, so plenty of people get up around 7ish just to revise them. You then have no lessons until 11 o’clock, but homework fills the gap quite nicely. After the 11 o’clock lesson, you get more homework before you final lesson at 4 o’clock, but in the intervening time you have to cram in any rehersals for the two plays, one in English (a translation of Aristophanes, usually), and one in Greek (a very high brow tragedy; this year, it was Euripides' Hippolytus).

The food (there are an unbelievable six meals during the day: breakfast, elevenses, lunch, tea, dinner, and supper) is actually very good. I’m a vegetarian and had no problems, and whilst it’s not wonderful for the health conscious (my arteries went “clang” every time I went in for breakfast), it is hearty and filling.

The evenings are pretty Bacchanalian (or rather Dionysian); the cheap on-site bar opens at 9pm, so after the 8 o’clock lecture everyone heads there, and drinks heavily for the rest of the evening, alongside the tutors, who behave in a very similar manner to students, smoking, drinking and toking with the best of them.

Aside from the lessons, lectures and drinking, there’s a whole host of activities available: most houses (you sleep in independent blocks called houses) have satellite TV, as well as table-tennis tables and table football. There’s a large sports facility with tennis courts and a swimming pool, and even an on-site shop.

If you’re a classicist in the UK (or even from elsewhere: plenty of foreign students go) I can heartily recommend the JACT Greek course – my standard of Greek just went through the roof, and I read some Plato (Euthyphro) as well as Book 22 of Homer’s Odyssey in the original, in the course of just two weeks. It’s intensive, but it really is a matter of work hard, play hard.

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