Xavier Gonzalez, a maths major at Harvard, was one of the nine Thouron Scholars who took part in the 2016 PKP.
What made you think about applying?
One of the girls in my house at Harvard was on the 2015 PKP and she could not stop raving about the programme. She said “Being a Thouron scholar at PKP made me fall in love with learning again”. That was enough for me.
What courses did you take?
My supervision was focused on maths and physics, but for my classes I selected one on Shakespeare and one on Darwin with the goal to study authentically British folks.
How did you find them?
The supervision was a very intense experience and I found that there was an expectation of pre-knowledge in maths and physics which is greater than in the States. In the class I found that there was a focus on the fundamentals. My course on Darwin started with a discussion on “What is history?”, while the Shakespeare module had a real focus on grammar.
How did expectation matched reality?
The only expectation I had was that there would be more time to do everything wonderful that is here.
What will you take away from your experience?
I’m going to take away two things. The first being that you would think that given all the Thouron scholars come from the same three Ivy League schools you would think that we would be really quite homogeneous, but we all come from completely different walks of life and I think that I’ve learnt so much from the other 8 member of the group and I really value that.
The other thing that I have gained a much better appreciation of the educational value of travel. I had never left the US before this summer. 20 years in the US. I’m a bookworm, I always believed that the best way to learn anything was through a book, however, coming here and having the experience of being abroad and living and learning abroad, you don’t appreciate how much your mind does expand by being in a different place. In my first class this was emphasised because I learned that Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle was literally just him sailing around for five years and out of this came the most dominant theory of biology in the world today. I am immensely grateful to the Thouron family for this experience.
What advice would you give to someone coming to PKP?
Pack a time turner, it’s the only way to get everything done.