For two 3-week sessions every summer, the Exploration Program rules over Wellesley's beautiful campus, filling it with 800 high school students from 40 states and 30 foreign countries. Like many other summer programs, Explo (as it is more often called) offers students use of a prestigious college campus, workshops to enrich the mind, sports facilities and the opportunity to meet many new people.
What sets Explo apart from the rest? There are basically two aspects to Explo: the organized activities and the social atmosphere that each person experiences in his or her own way. This second element for me was the most important.
Participants are required to take two one-hour workshops which meet Monday through Friday. These range from music to peer counseling to poetry to meditation to the art of spying! The teachers are college or graduate students who tend to be fun, creative and interested in kids - far from traditional teachers. Other than that, students are free to do whatever they choose. Although basic rules about drugs, alcohol and going into the rooms of the opposite sex are enforced, an atmosphere of freedom, opportunity and fun prevails.
On a typical day, one can do art projects, play sports, go on field trips, meet friends and hang out or spend time alone. Every night there are a variety of social events, ensuring that no matter who you are, you will find people who you like and who like you back.
It is very different for each person who attends Explo, but most had an amazingly good time. For the first time since I entered high school, I felt fulfilled, peaceful and content. Several times a day I found myself silently saying, "It just doesn't get any better than this." This is because of the incredible friends I made.
One of the last nights was a mid-July New England night - cool and dark and somehow pure. The stars were out, the sky was clear and about an hour remained until check-in. I was with two friends I had met only two weeks ago and we were lying together on the Quad, feeling close and looking at the sky. As the minutes passed, our deepest fears, innermost secrets, hysterical stories and philosophical musings flowed from us and wafted into the night air. The unmistakable theme that colors my memories more than anything else that night was the incredible feeling of a close connection, a deep affection, of love and companionship for one another.
This is what Explo is all about. There is a feeling of intensity. It is about taking part in life, in relationships, about plunging into humanity and seeing what you can find. If you believe, you can make what you want of it. L
Review by A. S., Seekonk, MA
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.