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Friday, August 9, 2013

CTY Chronicles

As usual, I apologize for not having updated in ages. There is so much going on in the world and I honestly feel overwhelmed sometimes but lately there has been much more downtime. I am not sure whether this is a sign of changing times or if there is really a lack of eventful things taking place around this time of year.

For those of you who I have not yet been in contact, for the past three weeks I have been at a summer camp colloquially known as Nerd Camp. The more official term is CTY, Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth. They offer a slew of programs, from family explorations at various museums around the world to online courses and their most popular -- the summer camp. These take place on sites around the world at dozens of colleges. For instance, Dublin, Hong Kong, Saratoga Spring (NY), Los Angeles (CA), etc. My site had been Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

When I had to choose my sites over five months ago, I was mainly concerned with the courses available. The class I was interested in taking -- Cognitive Psychology -- was conveniently offered at Lancaster, Session II. Further probing brought me to the fact that not only was Lancaster the longest running site in the CTYprogram, but it was also the most tradition heavy. I applied, was offered a spot, and thus my adventures began.

Anyway, I arrived and was dismayed to find that there was literally no wifi on campus. What was a stereotypically wired teenage girl like myself supposed to do at a sleepaway camp for three weeks without Internet? It was in such a manner that I trudged myself through check-in, up the stairs to my dorm, into my room, and through my luggage. Seeing the large and empty expanse of a college dorm (which I was surprised to find was much more vacant than the hotel rooms I was used to) made me wonder if I might have just underpacked -- just a little. After all, I was seeing kids with loaded trunks packing for this three week camp, which even had laundry!

Our next stop was the dining hall for lunch. My parents, as all Asian parents are, were pleasantly surprised to see that the buffet styled dining hall was open to no charge for all families checking in. The food wasn't quite as impressive as I expected, but the Kosher/Internation/Vegan/Organic, aka KIVO, section served up a nice combination of fresh wraps, sandwiches, hotdogs, and a deli for the Middle Eastern cuisine. I noticed quite a few kids wearing the strangest fedoras, top hats, and duct tape paraphernalia. Unfortunately, I was left to the elements after we made a final dorm check after lunch.

Once my parents left, I was literally in a daze. I met with some of the other girls in my hall right before our first official hall meeting. They called me a "squirrel" since apparently all new CTYers are referred to that name. Anyway, I immediately learned that this camp was far from your average summer camp. We started off with some interesting discussions about ourselves, as well as "speed friending" which was basically the Platonic version of speed dating.

After all of that excitement, we still had to attend class. Imagine my surprise when the teachers asked us to call them by their first names! Plus, we sat in a horseshoe shape as opposed to the typical rows in order to promote group discussions. Although there was a pretest on psychology (which practically no one aced, given the fact that no one wants to sign up voluntarily for a course on a subject they already know) I was assuming that was the only graded assignment we would need to complete.

I left, tired and enthusiastic about what was to come. We have a grassy area in front of our dorm called the "Quad" where kids sometimes hang out to play frisbee or tag. At night, however, it's transformed into a high-energy, cacaphonous dance party. With the older kids leading the traditional dances, nerds moving like no one was watching, and voices joining in with the chorus, I'm happy to report that it was definitely a new experience for me. One I'm not quite letting go.

And that was only the first day. As hectic as things got at CTY (and oh, they can definitely get rowdy especially during the second week) I was able to keep tabs on the happenings. I'll try to keep you posted, as well as to share some photos, but I can't make promises yet!


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