Setting Up for Summerfuel Oxford 2019!


Hello! This is Cyle, the assistant director for Summerfuel Oxford 2019. Lindsey (the director) and I arrived on campus Sunday and have been setting up our office, meeting with university officials, brainstorming, and introducing ourselves to the wonderful museums and sights that Oxford has to offer. Our amazing (and I can’t say that clearly enough- these are some outstanding humans) staff of RAs arrive in the coming days and we can hardly wait to see them!

I’ve been anxiously awaiting June and Oxford for the last several months and so it’s hard to believe that it won’t be too long before you and 44 other students will be boarding your flights and traveling to Lady Margaret Hall to join Lindsey, the RAs, and I for three weeks full of learning, adventure, and community. I am sure that I speak for the entire staff when I say that we couldn’t be more excited to meet you!

In the coming days, we’ll be posting a little bit about ourselves and what you can expect when you arrive. Meanwhile, if you or your family have any questions, don’t hesitate to email us at:

We’ll have a phone set up shortly as well, and will update this post with that phone number as soon as we can!


Are You Ready to Apply to College?

We know that preparing to apply for college takes a lot of work. From studying for and taking the SAT to researching and visiting which schools you want to apply to, to filling out applications, writing essays, and crafting your resume, the process can be overwhelming.  Summerfuel’s College Admissions Edge programs are here to help you every step of the way. In addition to SAT prep with The Princeton Review, take a closer look at some of the important things you will learn at Tufts, Berkeley, or Columbia:

Essay Writing

Every CAE Essay Writing course is designed to help students reflect on their lives and realize that within their experiences they have plenty of material to craft an excellent admissions essay or personal statement. The writing curriculum is intended to help each student become a stronger, more confident writer. During sixteen hours of instruction and further time dedicated to out of class follow up, students will formulate a thesis, and learn to craft it into a concise and engaging personal statement. CAE faculty listen to students brainstorm and inspire them to take their story and sculpt it into a compelling narrative.

One-on-One College Counseling

Prior to the program, parents will be asked to complete a questionnaire regarding their child’s interests and strengths, and their own desires for their son or daughter.  Once on site, college counselors will schedule one-on-one counseling sessions with each student in order to map out a clear and realistic plan to approach the college admissions process.  College counselors will consider family input, student input, student academic performance, student extracurricular strengths and evidence of standardized test scores to appropriately advise each student.

Admissions Workshop

Together with college admissions experts, Summerfuel has crafted a unique admissions workshop curriculum designed to provide students with information about every aspect of the admissions process.  Students will participate in eight collaborative, interactive admissions workshops led by the college counseling team, with topics such as “Assembling Your Application,” “How To Visit a College,” and “Defining Goals & Dreams”.  The workshop setting provides a positive group environment where questions are welcomed and encouraged as students begin their independent work.

Preparing to apply to college can be a stressful time, but a summer program like College Admissions Edge can help you get organized, focused, and ready to tackle it all.

The Benefits of a Summer Leadership Program

There are so many important things to be gained from attending a summer leadership program such as Summerfuel’s Leadership & Innovation program at Columbia University. High school students get the chance to live on a university campus, obtaining a taste of true college life. Students attend the program from quite literally all over the world, which is an amazing opportunity to broaden horizons and make new friends they might have never met otherwise. New York City is at their fingertips, and students are able to discover all that it has to offer. There are many great aspects of Leadership & Innovation at Columbia, yet one thing stands out as a particularly valuable component which students will carry with them through the rest of their lives – leadership skills.

What Is Leadership?

“Leadership” can be defined as ‘the action of leading a group of people or organization; the state or position of being a leader,” with synonyms of “guidance, direction, authority, control, management” and more. Yet there is more to “leadership” than meets the eye, and there is a plethora of ways that people, especially young high school students, use leadership skills every day of their lives, and will continue to use into their futures. From being more confident in social situations and leading the charge on group projects in high school, to mastering the college application process and entering the workforce with ease, leadership is a priceless skill that can truly transform a student’s life.

We spoke with Lawrence Alexander, Boarding School Guidance Counselor and Summerfuel’s Leadership & Innovation Program Director, as well as Irene Hsieh, Finance Strategist for Entrepreneurs and Summerfuel’s Leadership & Innovation Faculty member, to get a firsthand account of the type of skills students are able to take away from a leadership program.

Leadership is not something that students need to wait until they start their careers to employ, but is a skill that can be used here and now, as high school students and even earlier. As someone who counsels students as young as 6th grade, Lawrence says “I think that we don’t give our students enough credit for the ages in which they confront things that we didn’t confront in our generations before. Students are confronting global crisis and civil war in other countries outside the United States. By the time we get them [at Summerfuel] at 14 or 15 years old, they can be experts and veterans in these conversations. So, I think programs like ours help to hone and acknowledge the fact that they’re already leaders in training.”

Learning Your Key Strengths

An important aspect of the leadership program is for students to take the Clifton Strengths for Students Test, which is a leadership profile assessment that enables students to understand what their strengths are. Irene notes that based on these assessments she “helped them understand how their key strengths would enable them to empower themselves, but also enable them to work more effectively on teams. If they understood not only what their strengths were, but also the strengths of the other teammates they would be able to harness that and work more effectively overall on getting projects done, but also individually in terms of what they were best able to achieve and how they could achieve it.”

As a successful entrepreneur and business owner herself, Irene goes on to say, “I wish I’d taken the Clifton personality test when I was in high school. I didn’t know what my strengths were, and it took me many years to realize it. I had to make a lot of mistakes before I really understood the importance of knowing your strengths and being able to capitalize on it.”

The value of students learning their strengths goes far beyond classroom projects or simply doing well in school, as Irene explains: “Understanding the individual personality strengths enables the person to have confidence, which is probably most important as a high school student, because a lot of kids are still developing and finding themselves at that age. To have confidence during a very vulnerable period of a person’s life really gives you an advantage, and a leg up on your personal and eventually, professional development.”

Leadership & College Admissions

As students move through high school and embark on the journey of applying to and entering college, leadership skills take on a whole new meaning. With such skills in their toolbelt, students not only have the confidence, but also the ability to identify which classes and what major they are more inclined to focus on. As Irene mentions, “A lot of people that enter into college don’t know what their career is going to be, and they have no idea what they want to focus on. Understanding their strengths can help them narrow the choices so that it’s easier for them to pick what would work out best for them.”

In the current age of extreme competition during the college admissions process, there is so much pressure for students to be able to demonstrate their leadership abilities outside of the classroom. So many students applying to colleges are the President of Student Government or the Captain of the track team, and this requires them to be able to articulate what they do and what that leadership means, rather than just simply submitting a resume.  Lawrence says that a summer leadership program is “really helping give students the words to go along with the prodigious activities they’re involved in.”

Lawrence goes on to explain, “When you look at college programs, whether it’s internships, externships or opportunities to be launched out into the world, more and more of those programs are now happening the summer of freshman year, so students don’t have the two to three year runway to get ready. When they go to college for that external piece, they need to be ready. Programs like [Summerfuel] really help them beyond the GPA and test scores, and those things are important from a leadership perspective. It helps them be right where colleges and employers need them to be.”

Tackling Public Speaking

One of the main aspects of a summer leadership program such as Leadership & Innovation at Columbia University is public speaking. Public speaking can be quite an anxiety-inducing experience for many people, and not everyone expresses themselves in a public format the same way. However, the best leaders find a way to convey ideas and express themselves, and many of those arenas are public. Lawrence shares, “I can say from my personal and professional experience, a leader who can confidently and coherently convey big ideas and cast a vision is important. Those qualities are important in a leader.”

Irene notes, “It’s one thing to be knowledgeable, but it’s also important to convey the sense of that knowledge. A lot of the students realize that if they understood what their strengths were, they could use that to come across as more persuasive. If you understand your strengths, you can find a way to convey your opinion and thoughts in a form that’s most effective for you, and that makes you feel most confident.”

The Importance of Listening

Something equally as important that goes hand-in-hand with speaking is listening. Lawrence reflects, “I think for both students and myself, one of the most important things is to become a better listener. On the day the students leave, they’re almost falling into each other’s arms and crying, because these people that were once strangers, they now know that much better. I have to believe that those relationships aren’t built because they’ve talked a lot, but they’ve been built because they’ve listened to and learned about other people. That’s not just a social value, but a leadership value. I think that in an age of talking and tweeting, listening is a skill we could all use.”

Leadership in Social Situations

Leadership skills are invaluable in their use in social situations and interpersonal relationships. Irene posits that when dealing with friendships or partnerships, it is important that you understand yourself first before you can begin to understand someone else, and leadership skills allow you to do just that. She says, “If you are aware of your strengths and aware that every person has their own strengths, you can be more watchful of that. So, when you interact with other people socially, you can hone in on their strengths more quickly and develop stronger social contexts.”

Lawrence states, “The basic skills of advocating for yourself and others, reading situations and cues, having courage, and being self-aware are intangibles that you can practice and are essential. These essentials may keep my child from getting in the car with someone who’s been intoxicated or help them speak up for someone who may be subject to bullying who won’t speak up for themselves; it helps you be an upstander. There is a lot of character leadership that we can help students develop in this time.”

Growing Confidence

So much of this is related to confidence. Lawrence points out that confidence and competence go hand in hand. Some students may be really competent, but need a boost of confidence. Conversely, other students might be more confident if they could build more competency. Wherever a student may fall, a summer leadership program is able to help with those deltas. Lawrence reflects that from the time students arrive at the program to the time they depart, he sees them grow in so many ways, from humility and skill development, to simply believing in themselves.

As Lawrence states, a leadership program such as Summerfuel’s Leadership & Innovation at Columbia University “is the most practical preparation for leadership that’s on the market. Students come from all over the world, from every kind of background, and they’re practically applying the skills that they’re learning. This is actually what leadership will be like in the real world.” From interpersonal relationships and college admissions, to public speaking and entering the work force, leadership is undoubtedly a priceless asset for students to carry with them throughout the rest of their lives.



Summer 2019 in the French Riviera

What better way to dive into French culture and language than by spending a summer in the heart of the Cote d’Azur?

In addition to French language study for all levels, students get the chance to explore another topic of their choice taught in English.

Take a look at the exciting seminars offered in Nice:

Art History

In this largely field-based course, Professor Michel Remy offers guided visits to local art institutions, including the Chagall Museum, the Matisse Museum, and the MAMAC, to illustrate the history of art from Impressionism through Surrealism. 

International Relations

In this course, students study current events relating to war and terrorism, diplomacy, refugee status, human rights, and aid for the developing world in order to think critically about the arguments made in international politics. 

Studio Art

Designed for students of every level, this course focuses on the essential techniques of sketching and painting, and takes advantage of the many picturesque neighborhoods in Nice and the natural beauty of the French Riviera. 

In addition to choosing a seminar, students also have the chance to participate in the following optional workshops.

French Cooking

In this workshop, students gain hands-on experience in a professional kitchen under the guidance of internationally recognized chef Jean Montagard. From croissants to créme brulee, this course will introduce students to the delicious and daring world of French cooking.


Nice provides an ideal setting for students to pursue their passion for photography and apply their own artistic touch in the digital darkroom. This course covers the fundamentals of compositions, use of manual features on a DLSR camera, and use of photo editing software to conceive and create images with beauty, purpose, intent and meaning.

Watch the Andalusia Homestay Webinar!

Authenticity is Key

When looking for a Spanish Language Immersion program, something that sets one apart from all the rest is true authenticity. Summerfuel’s Andalusia Homestay program in the South of Spain provides genuine Spanish language immersion in the coastal town of Conil. Students live like Spaniards for four weeks and truly see Spain as an insider, rather than as a tourist.

The roots of this program run deep, as Program Director, Marta Ramos, is a Conil native herself. Marta first discovered Summerfuel when her family actually hosted Summerfuel students when she was in high school back in 1990! Having experience on both sides of the coin, Marta has seen it all – what it was like to live in Conil, how it felt to host a Summerfuel student, and just how positive the experience was for the Summerfuel student living with her family. Now, Marta returns every summer to direct the program and pass the amazing experience on to new students.

Watch the Webinar On Demand!

There are so many aspects of the Andalusia Homestay program that make it what it is, from the host families themselves to the academics, activities and weekend excursions. Take a look at the virtual info session that Marta hosted to see what she has to say about life as a Summerfuel student in the South of Spain.

Click here to watch the video anytime!

Oxford Alum Gabriela Conquers the Dreaming Spires

A summer at Oxford is an unforgettable experience that leaves students with memories and friendships to last a lifetime. See what Gabriela has to say about her time with Summerfuel in Oxford in 2015:

Hi, my name is Gabriela and I went to Oxford in 2015. I am a sophomore in college now, living in Miami. To this day, I still have no words. The days I spent in Oxford were some of the most memorable times in my life. It’s about to be four years since my trip and I still can’t stop thinking about it. I look at picures from my trip constantly. It was the first time traveling without my parents and my first real taste of what it felt like to travel the world and be independent.

I was lucky enough to go on this trip with my best friend from middle school, Gaby. Together, we conquered Oxford one dreaming spire at a time. We got to do some many things there together, but we also got to experience many things on our own and meet such amazing people. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with my new home for the summer. Lady Margaret Hall became home in a matter of days.

I quickly made a group of friends that I absolutely loved. Every minute of the day was spent rolling on the floor with laughter, discovering the hidden gems of Oxford, and eating at just about every food place that exists in our small town. From Ben’s cookies and G&D’s, we would never go hungry. My morning class, Oxford Art and Architecture, is what I consider to be a blessing in disguise. My morning class was changed 3 times before I finally found the perfect one for me. I never expected to be taking architecture classes as a current pre-med student, but I knew it was the perfect opportunity to do something completely different. I ended up falling in love with it and had zero regrets, and I couldn’t imagine taking any other class!

One of the best things about my Summerfuel trip was the lifelong friend that came out of it. It was one of the first couple of days when we met in the dining hall. We were in the same RA group, but it wasn’t until she stole a jug of water from another table for me at dinner that I knew we would be friends forever. From that day on, we were inseparable! We took care of each other when we were sick, took the same afternoon class, and spent just about every day together.

Cosi lived in New York and now goes to school in California. I live in Miami, but the distance never stopped us. We have met up at least once almost every year since our program ended, whether I go visit her in New York with Gaby or her coming to stay with me in Miami. I know that we’ll be friends for a long time and I’m so grateful to Summerfuel for letting us meet.

Without Summerfuel, I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. It opened so many doors for me and provided me with such amazing experiences that I still brag about to this day. It even inspired me to do another study abroad trip in college to the U.K. this upcoming summer. I wish I could go back to my days in Oxford!

P.S. To any future Summerfuel students and alumni, just know that the excitement and giddiness will never go away even for years after your program. Just take me and my friend Gaby for example. Maybe one day, this will be you! I hope you get to enjoy your program as much as I did!

An Inside Look at a Summer in Spain

There is something about Summerfuel that always has people coming back for more.

From staff members that have worked with Summerfuel for decades to students that return for a second or third summer in a row, once you experience a Summerfuel summer your life will never be the same.

A perfect example of someone falling in love with Summerfuel and making it a major part of their life is Summerfuel Andalusia alum, Elizabeth Stallard. Elizabeth attended Summerfuel’s Spanish Immersion Homestay program in Conil, Spain as a student in 2010. During her time as a Summerfuel student, Elizabeth fell in love with the culture and language of Spain. Consequently, she was inspired to return to Spain several times to study and work. Elizabeth even lived in Northern Spain for two years working as an elementary school ESL teacher.

It wasn’t long before she was drawn back to Summerfuel, and in 2016 Elizabeth joined Summerfuel Barcelona’s staff as a Resident Advisor. Elizabeth held this position for two summers before joining the Senior Staff and becoming the Activities Director in Barcelona.

Undoubtedly, Elizabeth has experienced all aspects of a summer spent in Spain.

From being a student in Conil to a Senior Staff team member in Barcelona, Elizabeth has seen it all. She has gone through the excitement and nervousness of leaving home to travel to a far-away place; knows what it is like to make new friends from around the world; has lived in the dorms, gone on excursions, eaten in the dining hall – the list goes on and on.

Join Elizabeth for a Free Webinar to hear what she has to say about Summerfuel in Spain. From housing and dining to activities and excursions, Elizabeth will talk about her first-hand experiences in Spain, giving you personal insight into life as a Summerfuel student.

Webinar: January 31st, 4PM EST

Click here to register today and get the inside scoop on life as a Summerfuel student!

Magical Oxford – Camille Reflects

Undoubtedly, Oxford is a magical place. Throw in authentic and exciting academics to discover, new friends from around the world, and passionate teachers and mentors, and you have the makings for a summer that can change your life.

Camille was a part of Summerfuel’s 2017 Pre-College program at Oxford and had an experience that she will carry with her into her bright future:

“I attended Summerfuel’s program at Oxford in 2017  for three weeks, and it really was one of the best times! Here’s a little something about what I’ve been up to since then:

After Oxford, Johns Hopkins University. That’s where I spent the summer a year after my Oxford program with Summerfuel. It’s thanks to Summerfuel’s amazing program and the dedicated teachers that I chose to take a physiology and disease class in an American college after my Medical Science Experience. I still use my drama skills in everyday life, but the play I acted on the stage in Lady Margaret Hall is forever in my repertoire of plays. 

But Oxford wasn’t just academics, it was so much more. I lived in a piece of history for three weeks alongside some of the best people I’ve ever met. Sitting on the field in the back of Lady Margaret Hall, with the beautiful summer weather; that afternoon sun and clouds is a scene I won’t forget and continues to be my phone background. In addition to this beautiful scenery we had the chance to visit London twice and Churchill’s childhood home, which isn’t something you get to do everyday, especially in my case.

I live in Singapore, Southeast Asia, which means I’m away from most of my international friends. The ones I made at Oxford are spread around the globe: Lebanon, UK, France, US. This summer I was lucky enough to meet up with three of those special people and I hope that it was only the beginning of our meetings!

My life after high school is starting to form as I’ve sent out my applications for Med school to the British universities and will soon be doing so for universities in the US. I just recently got an offer to UCL, and I can’t wait to study in this field. One of my floor friends from Oxford is also applying to UCL so I’m sure the people I met at Summerfuel haven’t just disappeared from my life. 

To anyone reading this because they’re hesitating about whether or not they should apply and join a Summerfuel program: it’s truly something everyone should attend, and have the opportunity to enjoy. I know I did!!”

– Camille C., 17, Singapore

Click Here to learn more about Oxford Summer 2019!