We lived in a fraternity house here on campus. There were 4 other houses on our street and they were part of our "cluster" (basically means whenever there was a big event we all did it together). My house was particularly small and only had one other class in it so there was a total of 15 kids in my house. We also had four extremely different counselors, but they were all enjoyable in their unique ways. I think one of the nicest aspects of this program (besides being on a beautiful campus, of course) was the diversity I encountered. I just don't get an atmosphere where people are from all around the world back at my high school. It was also neat to listen about other people's classes in my cluster such as Artificial Intelligence and Environmental Science. Somehow even taking different subjects there were ways to relate to each student attending the camp.
But anyways back to the dorm. Since our house was small it felt very homey. The only downside is that Stanford doesn't believe in air conditioning (something to do with the environment probably) and we had a heat wave the first 2 weeks so it was HOT! I am so happy I brought a fan.
Basically our schedule went as follows. In the morning we had to wake ourselves up and walk to a dining hall. Oh and that's another I forgot to mention. We walked all over campus to get to places. It is so convenient that everything is so accessible (also good for the environment and our bodies!). But when/if I go here for college I would definitely bike. Still, it feels weird to not have ridden in a car for 3 weeks. So anyways back to the schedule. So we would go to the dining hall and usually I would get a seat outside. Also the food was spectacular. And being gluten and dairy free I am extremely picky. But, there were tons of options! I was even able to have some completely vegan meals some days and there were always very helpful and accommodating. The berth of vegetables they offered was impressive as well. And they really convinced me of their greatness when they offered butternut squash (a personal favorite- and twice! No brussel sprouts though...). After breakfast we had to walk to class by 9 am. We would meet with our teacher who got her PhD here at Stanford. She is now a professor at the Univ. of Alabama and teaches modern literature. She was extremely well-qualified and knowledgeable to say the least. The breadth of her vocabulary was impressive. And you know someone is smart when they are writing a journal to understand William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom through close reading. If you've never heard of that book my point is even further proved. And don't attempt reading it unless you have spark notes and patience at hand.
So during class each day we would go through the art movements beginning at the 1900s. Each day a student also brought in a timeline so that we could get a general understanding of what was going on in the world during the time period and how it could affect the works. Usually we would then get a small break and return for the rest of class usually finishing up with a poem or looking at art pieces from the time period and analyzing them. From there we would walk back to the dining hall, eat our lunch, and then head to the house where we had a study hall session. This usually included reading a piece from the artistic period we learned about that day. After we were done reading it, we would discuss the story with our TAs (also our counselors) and take notes for our discussion with our teacher the next day. Each week we had one essay (our last essay being our longest and most interesting) that we had time to work on in study hall. The nice thing about study session was that if you worked efficiently (which I always did) you didn't have to think about class for the rest of the day! Then after study session we would have activities ranging from Ultimate Frisbee (if you haven't played your missing out) to visiting Palo Alto. These were great opportunities to meet other kids from the different houses and enjoy the gorgeous weather. After activities finished we went to dinner and then we had free time to do whatever we wanted within Campus Dr. That's a fair amount of freedom. The Campus Dr. loop is a little bit more than a 4 mile circle so I would usually walk it after dinner. I always passed by the driving range and golf course and I cannot deny that I didn't feel a twinge of sadness that I wasn't able to play (the Stanford GC is for students only). Curfew was at 9:30 and at that time we had a house meeting where the counselors told us anything important we had to know for the next day. After their announcements were over we did a game called Spotlight where two people basically get questioned by the rest of the house. It was funny and enlightening to reveal each individual's character (some of the people who I had the impression were shy at first turned out to be the boisterous ones!).
So that's basically what I did everyday for three weeks. In terms of the class I felt like I learned a lot and the difficulty level was equal to my honors English class. We read difficult texts from James Joyce (thank you Mrs. Eccleston for preparing me!) to William Faulkner (yes, I read the entire Absalom, Absalom in less than a week) and poems like "Styrofoam Cup". I am so happy I decided to go outside the box and choose a class subject area that I've never really gotten much depth in.
Oh and I forgot to mention the weekends! On the weekends we had a field trip on Saturdays. The first Saturday we went to the beach at Capitola. I went swimming and the ocean felt refreshing. The town is also so cute. It has little shops and restaurants on the waterfront and my friends and I ate lunch at one of the places that looked good. It was called Paradise Beach Grille and we did make the right choice because it was delicious. I had fresh mahi mahi and a scrumptious beet salad.
The next weekend we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey (I know you never would have guessed). It was cool, but I am glad we didn't stay there for more than 2 hours. Looking at starfish and touching sting ray is only amusing for so long. Plus it can get really agitating when there are thousands of crying, wailing children with their booger-smeared faces running around. I'd say the best part were the Otters because they were super cute and the lunch I ate with my two friends at the restaurant. It was secluded from the rest of the museum and you needed a reservation so it was quiet and the menu was surprisingly really fancy and tasty (what food isn't delicious in Cali though?). We also got a beautiful view. Our table was overlooking the ocean and they provided us with binoculars to check out the different species of birds.
On Sunday we went to the Farmer's Market. What a fantastic experience that was! I was amazed by the selection. They had everything from grass-fed meats and Wild Alaskan Salmon to raw Yoghurt and the most delectable organic fruits and vegetables. I bought 3 containers of strawberries, different types of peaches, and avocados. The peaches were so savory that the juice would just overflow when I took a bite. The best part about this market is that it is open all YEAR long. Yes and it was huge! It was a perfect combination of enough selection from different farmers but not so large that I got overwhelmed.
We finished the last week up with a discussion of Postmodernism. As an in-class field trip we went to the Cantor Arts center on campus. I was really surprised by some of the pieces they had in there and how large the collection was for a university (they had a Picasso!). Our final essay was to pick a piece and do a comparison paper of the artwork to something we had read. I had never really done an assignment like that before so it was really neat to overlap painting techniques with literary style and find a common meaning, especially when the two works were from Modernism and Postmodernism. We also got a partner and as the last day of class we had to do a short presentation of why our piece should be added to the audience's collection. It was a fake auction basically and we all got to vote at the end.
I'd say that the best part of the program, besides the class and teacher of course, were all the funny, bright, and inspiring kids that I met. I was able to have the intellectual conversations I have with my friends back home and that was pleasing. I'd say the worst part of the program for me was the lack of freedom. I realize their obligations to keep us safe, but I am a pretty independent person and I wish I could have been allowed to take the bus to Palo Alto say for dinner or a cab to the golf course to go golfing. I missed that type of freedom which I get with a car (or my feet too if I really feel motivated). I just think that towards the end of the program I got a little bit stir crazy because golfing is such a big part of my life in the summer and takes up hours of my days. Not having it for three weeks is not only hard for my game, but it's also a relaxing and meditative sport that I thrive on. Besides that, the only other annoying thing was that sometimes some of the counselors had some major attitude. But, I don't think that's an inherently bad thing. In life we will always encounter students, teachers, coworkers, bosses, etc. who have crappy personalities just because. So I think it's good to step outside the bubble of "always happy" people for awhile.
But negativity put aside, the last day is bittersweet. I am excited to go back to my home, cook up a meal for myself, golf, see my family, and head to Greece. But I'm also sad because I realize that I may never see some of the closest friends I've made here ever again. The program went too fast just like any absorbing and intense activity. I just hope my brothers get to share a similar experience as me if they decide to do it as well.
Man am I thankful I broke up my vacation into 2 blog posts! That would've been a monster to read! Plus, now I could go into more detail. Well have a wonderful day as I prepare for my month-long awaited trek back to the den.