For many high school students, summer vacation is a time for reuniting with camp friends, working at the local ice cream shop, or just lazily lying on the beach. However, while these summertime activities are valuable in certain respects, I have learned new ways to enjoy the summer.
Last July I participated in "Summer in New York: A Pre-College Program," at Barnard College, directly adjacent to Columbia University. Through participating in this co-ed program, I gained knowledge in two specific areas which are not taught in my school, I made friends from all around the country, I enjoyed many activities New York City has to offer, and most important, I was introduced to what college is really like, since all the participants stay in Barnard dorms.
I was surprised at the diverse group of people who comprised the program. Students from as far away as Japan and Brazil and as close as Long Island were introduced to college life as only Barnard can offer. Many parents expressed concern about the dangers of New York City, and questioned if their children were mature enough to handle themselves there. These reservations were soon put to rest when the parents observed the tightly-knit security policy which encompasses Barnard, and the safety rules for participants. Throughout the program, students are treated as mature, grown-up individuals; however, there are restrictions. A curfew is set every night, and students are expected to be accompanied by their "R.A.s," Barnard and Columbia students.
I can recommend the program for so many reasons, but the highlights for me were the activities which were planned for us. Students participated in the Democratic National Convention, saw plays on Broadway, helped the homeless by renovating shelters, went on tours of various New York landmarks, and observed lectures on various topics. My favorite activity was the Harlem Restoration Project, which enabled a small group of participants to observe the positive and negative aspects of living in a major urban center, and required the students to help restore an aging tenement.
The courses which the program offers are varied; among the choices are, sociology, prose and poetry, theater, cinema, economics, and psychology, and each course is taught by a faculty member of Columbia or Barnard. One quality that separates these courses from normal high school courses is that the professors often go to extra lengths for students. I experienced this dedication when my theater professor took the class to see the Broadway play "Conversations With My Father," and afterward arranged a tour of the set given by the play's star, Judd Hirsch.
In my opinion, the area surrounding Barnard is the best college campus on the East Coast. This is due to the wide variety of restaurants and shops surrounding Barnard and Columbia, but also because of the surprising beauty within the campus, which can often make students forget that they are in a city.
I came away from the program with new friends, a greater knowledge in two specific areas of study, an appreciation for the vital cultural aspects of New York City, and a more definite idea about what college life is like. If you are a sophomore, junior or senior in high school, and are interested in finding out more about the program, you can write to the following address:
Director of Special Academic Programs
New York, NY 10027-6598 n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.