It all started when I saw a bright orange envelope mixed in with my mail. It definitely grabbed my attention and I ripped it open to find brochures about a summer program for teenagers entering grades 10-12. The premise of the program is to enrich high schoolers’ minds at a three-week program held at Yale University. Students have over 80 courses to choose from, ranging from modern dance and photography to American Sign Language and genetic engineering.
I arrived on a Sunday in early July and was greeted by an orange and blue balloon arch. Signs directed us to Linsley Chittenden Hall for registration, and because we were early, we didn’t have to wait long. In the quad, a DJ was playing music and cafeteria workers served free ice cream and water to counter the extreme heat.
Armed with my prox card, keys, and Explo lanyard, my family and I set up my fourth-floor room in Lanman-Wright. Although the dorm is old, it wasn’t bad for a three-week stay. The bathrooms needed some attention but were fine overall.
The weekend trips were a great way to bond with friends while enjoying exciting events. Options included Broadway shows in New York City, visiting New England beaches, or an overnight trip to Washington, D.C. The most popular day trip among my group (20 students of the same gender who are in your grade and dormitory) was deep-sea fishing but I preferred a trip that didn’t have a 3 a.m. departure time.
The classes and activities at Explo were enriching, fun and entertaining. Explo is about having fun while learning with peers. The classes took up only a small portion of the day, which left plenty of time to relax, do laundry (not as horrible as you would think), hang out with friends in the quad, or stroll the streets.
My favorite part of each day was class time because I got to see all my friends in one place instead of having to call/text them. My first class of the day was Digital Imagery, a class in which we learned expanded fundamentals of Adobe Photoshop. We learned tips and tricks on how to use the program efficiently and at the end of class shared our “masterpieces” and gave feedback.
My second class was Intro to Business Management, in which we learned the basics of owning a business. For our last task, we made booths to attract other students and kept track of how many visitors we received. Our booths were rated on creativity and the amount of “good” it did for the Explo program. My group’s booth raised awareness of the genocide in Darfur. A few young activists helped us by posting fliers on dormitory doors. We wrote in chalk on the quad’s intersecting paths to advertise our booth. Although we did not win the overall competition, we received the highest number of “good” points of the groups in my class.
Every night, there was a main event, or Explo-wide assembly. The directors flew in up-and-coming musicians, improv comedians, a hypnotist, etc. The last week of camp, the students who took acting, dancing, or music classes performed for us.
At our 11 p.m. check-in, our living group made announcements and discussed high and low points of the day. We never referred to our living groups as “those kids in my building” because we were more like a temporary family that experienced everything possible in three weeks. My resident advisors were absolutely amazing and we were all friends with them.
I had the best summer of my life at this program. I know that sounds cliché, but there really is no other way to describe my summer and all the friends I made. I highly recommend this summer program to anyone with a desire to learn, succeed, and meet lifelong friends from all over the world!
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.