The idea of going to school during the summer holidays, which is supposed to be a break from actual school, doesn’t resonate well in the mind of a typical teenager.
The people at Exeter seem to have realized this, going through a whole lot of trouble to rename their summer program in the hopes of not scaring anyone away. I conducted some interviews with students to get their opinions on what they expected from the Exeter Summer experience. I found that expectations ranged from extremes of good and bad, from having no homework to making no friends. Needless to say, after just over a week of being here, students are beginning to notice that things aren’t going exactly as they had expected.
The most important question, however, is not whether your expectations were realized, but whether you prefer the reality here at Exeter over your own expectations.
There’s no doubt that several students were slightly nervous (some more than others), about being thrusted into this new environment — one which, Sierra Leonean, upper school student Ngombi Lahai, 16, who lives in Boston, described as “strange.”
Many other students touched on how they were anxious about being away from their families for a longer period of time than usual. For some of us, the longest we’ve been away from our families is maybe a weekend sleeping over at a friend’s house.
Almost every student I spoke with confirmed that they were expecting it to be difficult to make new friends. Some had expected to be isolated — or worse.
“I expected to be judged for the way I dress — or yeah, for just the way I am,” said Yvonne Ogbechie, a 14-year-old Nigerian Upper School student.
Many students found that the reality here was stark opposite to these expectations. Every student I spoke with testified that they found that people here are friendlier and more approachable than expected and they’ve managed to make friends within the short time we’ve been here.
Additionally, students are pleasantly surprised about the diversity of the student population. Sharon Cheng, a 15-year-old student from Taiwan, shared that she was pleased to find herself amongst such a diverse group of people. In line with this, another 15-year-old girl named Zoe Osborn from Texas also mentioned, “I wasn’t expecting to hear so many different languages.”
A couple of students touched on the fact that they hadn’t expected this much liberty and opportunity to manage their own time. These students had expected every second of every day to be planned out for them. This expectation stemmed from previous experiences in other summer schools. They’ve found that Exeter students are free to manage their time outside of class.
“I love it here,” said Harrison James, a 15-year-old student. “I have the freedom to make my own choices.”
Some students were generally put off by the reality of the sheer massiveness of the campus. Matteo Calabresi, a 16-year-old student from Italy, stated, “I wasn’t expecting it to be so big.”
Matteo wasn’t the only one to comment on the size of the campus, as many other students complained about how they weren’t expecting to do this much walking to get from class to class. Another reality of the program that students aren’t particularly keen on is the amount of homework. People, including Matthew Suri, a 14-year-old Access student from New Jersey, are lamenting about the heavy load of homework they receive daily, which they didn’t expect from summer school.
In some aspects the reality of Exeter has proved to be above and beyond what we imagined. Sometimes we may get exactly what we were expecting, as was the case for the expectations people had for the food in the dining hall. Others may feel as though Exeter failed to meet our expectations. After weighing all the aspects, the overarching feeling is that people prefer the reality of Exeter as a whole to what they were expecting and they’re sure better things lie ahead in the next few weeks.