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College Comment
Power Summering

This summer, my mailbox was in Bishop, California. I’d never heard of the 3,500-person town before I applied for a volunteer position with Inyo National Forest. A roommate and I made the drive across the country, and after we'd conducted a quick car tour of Bishop—it took all of five minutes—he dropped me off at the Forest Service barracks. It was squat, plastic-sided, and had apparently been painted when “lox bagel spread” was all the rage. I grimaced at it. Sean guffawed. Then he said goodbye and zipped south to UCLA, where he was working for the summer. I was starting to wish I were going with him.


“I prize summer as a complete break—not from work, but from the familiar.”

But my doubts about the Inyo job disappeared as fast as the place rekindled my love of the outdoors. I spent most of my time, just as I had hoped, in the mountains. During the day, I maintained the trails and campsites. At night, I would angle my tent for a view of rocky, moonlit Sierra Nevada peaks. Not bad for a job I found on the Web.

In my father’s time at Yale (he’s Class of 1961), most undergraduates went home for the summer. My father spent his breaks from college doing construction with his high school friends. But more and more of my fellow undergraduates, privileged with certain resources like the McNeil scholarship, which reimburses financial aid students like me for unpaid summer work, use their extended vacations differently: as a time to better themselves, whether through career advancement, intellectual engagement, or simply adventure.

In my senior year of high school, I decided that the carefree “last summer at home” romanticized by so many teen movies (which don’t show the hours you inevitably spend slouched in front of the TV) was not for me. I got a job as a camp counselor in Lakeville, Connecticut, and learned the intrinsic value of throwing oneself into something new. The next summer, I worked in television and film production in New York, and last summer, I taught teens at Duke University’s academic camp. The thread of continuity in these experiences is that I have prized summer as a complete break—not from work, but from the familiar.

I would say most Yalies my age embrace this attitude, although not entirely. Some of my friends have tried a number of jobs but like to stay in the same place. And some may change locations but work in the same business every summer. As for those who choose paths like mine, I will admit that in true Yalie fashion, I like and respect them while secretly competing with them. I constantly ask myself, “Has he or she been more 'out there' than I have?” I admit defeat at the hands of one suite-mate in particular, who spent his last three summers working for a non-governmental organization in Honduras, for the Nature Conservancy in Alaska, and this summer, for a newspaper in Buenos Aires. But there’s always next summer—well, one more.  the end


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