In tears from hysterical laughter, our stomachs ached, while the group of strangers sat across from us forging smiles and giving unamused breathy “giggles.” I can’t believe it’s almost over. Today was day 8/10 for us at the American Indian Science Scholars Program in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We spent the last few days meeting kids from other programs. I was excited for what they would experience throughout their camp stay because I had already been through the rollercoaster of emotions that accompanied it. The beautiful girls who were once strangers, were now my best friends within only 8 days, and soon it would end...
Day 1, July 23, 2017
I couldn’t believe I went through with this. I had a two-way flight from Michigan to Wisconsin with a layover in Minnesota… I’m not afraid of flying, but I was nervous about flying alone to states I’ve never been to, let alone with strangers that’d be my roommates for the next 10 days. The speaker in the airport buzzed before I heard, “Now boarding Delta Airline flight to Minneapolis, Minnesota”. That’s my flight!
I’ve successfully boarded both planes, and am now in Milwaukee. I can finally breathe. Shoot! Where’s my ride to the dorms?
After long walks through airports, an awkward car ride, and hours of introducing ourselves through mouthfuls of warm Chipotle burrito bowls, we can relax. We unpack with minimal talk, everyone’s exhausted.
The first few days, we get to know each other and see how many cupcakes we can sneak to the room. Friendships are forming, and we’re comfortable around each other. Although there was drama between the suitemates. well overdue, we found contentment within each other, through the issues.
Most of camp was spent exploring colleges that specialized in the health field. Every camper applied for the program to learn more about health professions. We each had two things in common, the first, each of us were interested in health, and the second, each of us had indigenous blood. That being said, we didn’t only learn about medicine, we also learned about our culture and who we are as people.
I’m a mixed child of five, meaning finding my place in the world was more difficult than it was for most. My family contains a wide variety of colors and ethnicities. Throughout my life, my family never focused on culture, and because of this languages like Ojibwe and Spanish were lost. Cultural traditions like powwows and quinceaneras were foreign to me. The interest in my ethnic background has grown considerably, hence why I came to this camp.
Day 9, August 1, 2017
Today was our last full day at camp. We tested our blood type and teased each other over who would pass out first. After wrapping bunches of band-aids around our fingers, we visited the stadium to watch a baseball game. The match didn’t start until 6:40pm, leaving us in Wisconsin’s summer heat. My friend and I passed time by seeing how many bananas we could eat, adding each banana sticker to our shoes for decoration. When the night had come to an end we bought two ice cold tubs of Ben & Jerry's ice cream each, to scarf down while we packed for the next morning, our tongues numb from the cold dessert.
The final day, August 2, 2017
Before we all went back to our lives, phone numbers, hugs, and goodbyes were exchanged. Our throats formed lumps, and our voices broke through our words. Each of us bitter to leave the friends, we’d never thought we’d make. My trip to Wisconsin taught me to take the opportunities and risks that come my way because they are the most memorable times in life.
Many opportunities arise in our lifetimes that cross our comfort zones. Many like the idea of going through with risky opportunities, but thoughts consume us and we sike ourselves out. Although the chances we take shape us, the chances we don’t take are also significant. Usually when asking an older person what their regrets are, they answer with something they wish they’d done, and rarely answer with something they wish to withdraw. When I first heard of the program the thought of flying somewhere far away, and staying with strangers terrified me, but I realised I didn't want to live in a shell all my life. Take advantage of opportunities that come your way because they can lead to the best moments in life, break out of your shell.