In a little over a month, I'm going to be entering college as a freshman. Not very long ago, I was a shy, short, seventh grader who didn't quite challenge herself academically or socially. Life went on, and I along with. It wasn't until the summer between seventh and eighth grade that my whole world change. Like many other naive and angsty teenagers before me, I found myself at nerd camp.
That was the beginning. Four more summers followed the first, each one better than the last. Some of you may know the programs I speak of - the first being Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth (also known as CTY), and the second being Northwestern University's Center for Talent Development (CTD). There are plenty of other options as well, but these are the two that I personally had the chance to experience.
Three weeks of hard classes, strange traditions, language cults, grocery store runs, going into town, class by Lake Michigan, dog park visits, lazy weekends, wild dances, crowded dining hall tables, Saturday drag outfits, illegal sleepovers, sugary drinks, cheese quesadillas, getting sick every year, cloud watching, hall bonding, Easy Mac, farmers market trips, morning runs, french kissing, slow dances, group dances, dance circles, rap battles, raving circles, cuddling, laughing, movie watching, weird afternoon activities (like Bad Acting Appreciation & Star Crash, a terrible remake of Star Wars) and lame (truth be told) weekend activities, also termed "mandatory fun".
Don't forget that we were actually there to be academically enriched with the plethora of courses. At the same time, suffering through lectures, night study sessions, psychology, Latin, writing, heavy reading, logical proofs, and philosophy. Didn't think teenagers could tackle the burning questions about life, the universe, and everything and also act like complete weirdos? Think again.
But we can only have so much. At 18 years old now, and like countless others, I am too old for nerd camp. Nevertheless, I will continue to cherish the fun memories and lessons from those bygone days. In the meantime, here are the seventeen.
Making (and eating) soft serve from the machine inside college dining halls
This is what they call a classic.
Putting Turkey Hill Strawberry Kiwi Lemonade (SKL) on top of our room’s air conditioning to keep it cool
The only way to refrigerate without a refrigerator. Also, this is a holy drink for CTY Lancaster because of just how sweet it tastes, and how bad it goes with things like Easy Mac and watermelon pulp.
Getting a cake for our Latin teachers and writing a Latin inscription
An extra gift for an extra teacher. Thank you for enlightening us with verb conjugations, noun declensions, gender, and the mini-animal sacrifices. Thank you for bringing Coup into my life.
Celebrating all the summer birthdays on one day with three large cakes
Picking up a shoe then finding out that it was my roommate’s
This really happened. After one of the 5 dances, I absentmindedly picked up these heels and didn't realize they weren't mine until later. Then I posted on Facebook asking for help finding the owner. After some time, my roommate tells me they're hers. Okay. How dumb was I to do this? Let me repeat myself. This is a camp for TALENTED youth.
Bleaching my hair
I was never the person who changed hairstyles, but I will say that bleaching my hair made me feel gorgeous, mature, and way more confident.
Fitting our entire hall into a triple room for a sleepover
Seeing different views of a college campus
L-R, clockwise: Northwestern University Library, Franklin & Marshall sunset, Franklin & Marshall quad, Norris University Center Starbucks at Northwestern, Northwestern sunset, Northwestern residential quad
Throughout my 4 years of nerd camp, I went to 4 colleges/universities. In order, they are: University of California at Santa Cruz (not pictured), Loyola Marymount University (not pictured), Franklin & Marshall College, and Northwestern University.
Watching people spin raves & glow string
Glow-stringing (also termed 'raving') is a subculture at CTY. People 'spin the raves' with shoelaces & glow sticks, pod poi, staffs. Here's what that is, pretty much.
Quirky academic activities: like building a play-dough brain or crafting classroom rules for an ethics class
This is what nerd camp's premise is. Take a class for 3 weeks and gain intelligence.
My hall’s note to future residents of that dorm - stuck inside the ceiling
Our hall bonding activity one rainy day was to write this neon pink post-it note of an encouragement. It has been 2 years and I wonder if anyone stumbled upon it.
Taking “dystopian” pictures around campus
Explanation: for class.
Filling two pages front and back of “love tape”
Definition: Solid-colored or patterned pieces of heavy duty duck tape that campers delightfully rip off their prepared rolls and place them on their "loved ones" (read: mostly everyone you encounter that day).
The tangible pieces of duct-tape are symbolic of the intangible feelings of love that permeated the three short weeks. I treasured the energy that everyone carried around, but also the mutual respect. I was always happy on "Love Tape Day" and the festivities made me feel like I was part of something big. Some part of me believed that we left behind little pieces of ourselves through the 'love tape'.
Drinking a weird mix of soda, SKL, and lemon juice from a watermelon
A strange tradition in which we slice the fruit in half with plastic dining hall knives, then fill it with as many unsavory drinks as we can. After sharing the chunks of flesh as well as the juice, the group ceremoniously dumps the destroyed watermelon into the nearest trashcan.
Dancing to Don McLean’s “American Pie”
Please read more here.
Imitating the monks in Monty Python
Please read more here.
Giving a Passionfruit speech, which is essentially my farewell to nerd camp
Why would I miss this if it represents my last time at CTY? I must believe that in spite of the melancholic mood, I feel I've gained some closure among my favorite people. Also, it's still a celebration of our time there, in a way.
For more on this tradition, please read this.