For some of the 781 students attending Exeter’s Summer School, arriving from a myriad of countries, it is their first visit to the United States. Many were surprised by what they saw from the moment they exited their airplane, and for others their amazement began when they reached the campus, and began meeting their roommates, peers, and teachers.
While talking with friends, many students mention the differences between the environment here, and theirs at home. The differences range from the way classes are taught to the food here. As Ines Vignal from Shanghai, China said: “The diversity is amazing. At home we have in-class discussions but never like the Harkness method. The ‘good’ students usually monopolize the conversation at school.”
Students, as well as teachers, seem to be enthusiastic about the Harkness method, and are surprised to find that it works well even in math and science classes. It allows students to teach themselves and their peers with little interference from the teacher. Especially as most students come from having a much more traditional classroom experience, the Harkness method has proved to be popular. As Tianshu Wang, a student from Beijing China put it: “The Harkness Style. That’s pretty interesting and special in the school. And I guess I’m amazed that there are students here that came from all over the world, different cultures, different religions, different backgrounds.”
Among students, the diversity of the student body is commonly mentioned as the most enticing part of the Summer School. Tiwa Aima speaks about his experience here compared to his home in Allen, Texas.: “At my school it’s almost like teaching to the test. That differs from the attitude of everyone here because everybody is eager to learn.” This ties back to the Harkness method in that it is only truly successful when the students are leading the conversation and are interested in the material, which all Summer School students appear to be.
Just as classroom life here is a new experience, the social life at Exeter is another. People from around the world share a generally similar idea; that the Summer School is unique in its social environment. As Florence Maggs from Germany described it: “Everyone is so open. You can go up to anyone and start a conversation with them. In Germany it’s not like that.”
During an assembly, students were encouraged to be friendly to and smile at people, even if they had never spoken to them before. This promotes an “open” and inviting community for students and teachers to thrive in. Elika Rezaeimanesh, a student from Iran, shares a similar view: “People want to know each other. Like in my home, at school, people already know each other so they’re in groups but here they want to know new people so that’s really nice.”
Even for students from as close as a 15-minute drive away, there are unfamiliar aspects of the summer program that take time to become accustomed to. These differ for each student; for some it is the food, and for others it is living with a roommate. Julia Anisimova from Moscow, Russia, talks about the food: “It is really hard to stay healthy in the USA. You have to get used to all the good foods around you. Everything is so huge!”
The dining hall can be overwhelming as well, as the actual food is its own new experience for some. Maria Clara Cobo spoke about the differences between Exeter and her home in Quito, Ecuador: “I love the food, and I love the people, they’re great. It’s really safe, and everything is really organized.”
Another student named Alia Buachale from Bahrain described her experience living in a dorm: “You have to be considerate and you have to think before you act.”
The environment at Exeter allows students to adjust quickly to their new home, with the assistance of their peers and teachers who aid their transition. Regardless of their situation at home, all Exeter students make their time at Exeter full of new, fun, and different experiences.