Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Where in the World Wednesday: Smart Camp at Northwestern, part 1

It's Classy in Philadelphia's Where in the World Wednesday!

The idea of WITWW is to post a picture of you in someplace in the world... it doesn't have to be somewhere foreign or tropical. Just a picture of you somewhere that you consider traveling. It might even be somewhere in your own hometown!

This week we're going to Evanston, Illinois, where I spent six weeks at Northwestern University during the summer of 1995.

First, the backstory: I have always been academically-inclined. Some kids play a sport or an instrument for fun. I took tests. It was one of the few things I was good at. Yes, I used to be one of those kids. Where I'm from, those kids are a dime a dozen. Trust me, I was never the smartest kid. But I sure did try!

Like many of my peers, I took the SAT for the first time when I was in seventh grade just because I could. The result was that I earned myself a spot in the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University's Spectrum program. Students live in Northwestern's dorms and take high-school level courses that cram a year's worth of instruction into three weeks.

So during the Chicago heat wave of 1995 my parents packed me up and drove me to Evanston to "go to college" for the summer. They installed me in my un-air conditioned room in Willard Hall and left me there to fend for myself for the next three weeks. I cried a lot. It was the first time I had been away from my home and family for any significant length of time.

Like a true over-achiever, I enrolled for both summer sessions. The first session, I took French--the equivalent of a high school French I class. When I entered eighth grade back in Okemos that fall, I independent-studied my way through French II. I sat at a little table in the back of the classroom with my book and essentially taught myself. Everyone thought I was a freak.

But back to camp. This was my class picture--the only picture I have of myself from the first session. I'm the one in the white shorts, holding the D sign. We were trying to spell out "Bonjour, CTD!"

The girl next to me holding the T sign was my roommate. She was from Chicago and she was scary, at least to my sheltered self. She hated me. She made fun of me during class and when we were supposed to be having study time in our room, she talked shit about me on the phone to her friends when she thought I was listening to our pronunciation tapes on my headphones.

I later learned that she was there on scholarship and that she might not have actually earned her spot based on academics, further justifying my fear that she was going to cut me in my sleep.

I'll be honest, the first session of camp was rough at times. I was the typical socially awkward 12-year-old, just trying to fit in and yearning to be one of the "cool" girls who had a camp boyfriend. I did not make any close friends during that session, but I am glad that I went. It set me up for a much better experience in the second session.

Come back next Wednesday--I promise smart camp gets way more interesting!


Salt said...

I would not have fared well in that situation. I was way socially awkward at 12. (

T-Sign sounds scary as hell! I'm glad you made it out of your living situation alive!

I am a new fan of Where in the World Wednesday.

Jessica (Bayjb) said...

Awesome picture! Is your camp like band camp? :) Dirty joke, just kidding. I love this series, it's so interesting to see where people have been!

Classy in Philadelphia said...

My ex did a program like that! Ohh, you smarty pants, you!