By: JoAnn Tinker
Photo Credits: JoAnn Tinker
Summer session brings kids running from all around the world, attracted by the opportunity to meet their teachers in person, take cool courses, and hang out with classmates. Students from Australia, the UK, and everywhere in between take Stanford by storm every summer ready for two weeks of courses and activities that they will never forget. To those attending summer session for the first time, it must have been both educational and mind-blowing.
On the educational side, incoming students took part in the Orientation program, while returning students participated in one of two courses: Life on the Pacific Rim or AP Biology. Orientation focused on study skills and digital citizenship, while also featuring a crash course on Centra survival. Students in the Life on the Pacific Rim course studied the cultural aspects of Asian cuisine, the life stories of mathematicians from around the word, the ecosystems of the Pacific Rim, Kwaidan (performance art based on Japanese ghost stories), or debate skills relating to Asian political policy. In addition to these large projects, all participants took several mini-courses. The available classes varied greatly to reflect the diversity of student interests. From analyzing the songs of Bob Dylan, to studying the differences in cognitive behavior of different ethnicities, to programming apps, there was something for everyone, allowing each student to explore areas that interest them.
During summer session, Stanford campus becomes a special environment that fosters the OHS brand of unique behavior. Where else would it not only be acceptable, but also encouraged, to walk home at 11 pm, soaking wet from fountain hopping? This is the type of place where kids can let their freak flags fly. If the tree looks like it has a face, go ahead and kiss it! No one will judge you, but they might take a few pictures.
I’ve heard that it starts even at the airport, with kids trying to identify the OHSers. When you encounter an OHSer, you just know, right? They have a distinctive quality, recognizable even from a distance. For example, if you hear someone on the Stanford campus loudly singing the Scottish national anthem, you know it has to be an OHSer. If you hear a bunch of kids singing the Scottish national anthem, then it’s an OHS pack. By the end of camp, even I knew all the words! And I don’t sing. Singing was optional.
Certain activities, though, were mandatory, group bonding activities. The Summer Session Hunger Games were a particular highlight, organized by the upperclassman for the underclassmen. Male and female underclassmen were “randomly” paired, and instructed to represent districts in battle. These dream teams were sent out into the field, where pool noodles and wet sponges were deadly weapons, and “alliances” with other teams often proved fatal.
After almost two awesome weeks on campus, we ventured into the wilderness at Camp Jones Gulch. It actually was a wilderness. There was no wifi or cell signal. Hard to imagine if you weren’t there. But it forced us to step out of our comfort zones and communicate with each other without using technology. Together, we took on every challenge the great outdoors could throw at us, from obstacle courses and outhouses, to hauling logs through the sand. At the ropes course, students used teamwork to complete challenges and obstacles, from walking tightropes 3 feet above the ground, to balancing on beams 70 feet up. What’s more entertaining than climbing 70 feet up a redwood, walking across a log, and jumping off? Watching your teacher do it. At the beach, the counselors put us to work building forts. While most kids make forts using blankets, we did it up in true OHS fashion, and designed driftwood castles, one of which was Scotland themed.
A slightly more intimate affair than any of our other activities, the end of camp dance forced everyone onto an outdoor dance floor in the middle of the woods. We received strict instructions from the Camp counselors: “Stay on the dance floor! Don’t you dare go into the bushes; we WILL come and find you!”
On our last night at Camp Jones Gulch, it was time to say goodbye. I don’t mean to each other, there was a forbidden 4 am farewell session for that. We had to say goodbye to Jerry. The esteemed inflatable flamingo of the Phi Sig house was no more. He spent his last moments leaking air, surrounded by every kid at summer session. They huffed, they puffed, but they just couldn’t blow him back up. A flamingo couldn’t have asked for a better fireside funeral service, though. I hear his final resting place is in Korea, for those who want to pay their respects.
After leaving camp, I was left with one question: where on earth do they find these kids?! I’ve never been around such diverse, talented, and yes, strange people. I can’t wait to come back.