When given the opportunity to be away from the comfortable confines of home, many students at Phillips Exeter Academy Summer have been driven to act beyond their comfort zone. Surrounded by new, friendly faces in a welcoming atmosphere, it is common for pupils to take advantage of the avant-garde facilities, which range from the monumental Phelps Science Center to the state-of-the-art Forrestal-Bowld Music Centre.

However, Amelie Wilkers was able to try something new without the use of the facilities. Coming from a picturesque town in Germany, Amelie only learned English in lessons, and very rarely spoke the language.

“Coming here was a major culture shock for me,” said Amelie. “It was very hard to completely switch to English, especially when there are so many native speakers here.”

Before attending Exeter Summer, she had thought it would be easier. Due to the clashing of cultures, the abundance of different accents prove to be difficult for Amelie.

“The slang and different accents make it so hard for me to understand,” said Amelie. “However, the people here are so nice and always help me translate words.”

Coming to an English-speaking program, she expected it to be easier. With the notion that English is an important and beneficial language in this day and age, she wanted to improve her speaking skills. Although students and faculty aid her when it comes to difficult subjects for a non-native speaker, Amelie still has some difficulty with the fully-immersive experience.

“It’s difficult when I can’t communicate properly,” said Amelie. “I often find myself saying German words in class, except with an english pronunciation!”

Fortunately, with time and persistence comes rewarding results. After four weeks of learning, communicating and writing in English, Amelie has thoroughly improved what was once an arduous ordeal.

“My dictionary is my best friend!” said Amelie.

Contrary to Amelie’s more optimistic expectations, Krishna Patel, student of Exeter Summer, was terrified of learning to swim at Exeter.

“I was scared of drowning,” said Krishna. “I thought I would just embarrass myself, and I never expected to learn to swim in only two weeks.”

Now, as we draw closer to the end of summer, she can successfully swim a full lap. Finding it easier than expected, Krishna fervently expressed her gratitude for this opportunity. Having never properly swum before, she did not know any actual swimming strokes.

“Now I can go to the beach with everyone,” said Krishna. “I’m so grateful that I’ve learned how to swim!”

For an already adept swimmer, Rahul Kalavagunta, student of Exeter Summer, decided to branch out this summer, running cross country for the first time.

“Since I swim a lot at home, I already have the endurance,” said Rahul. “But I did not expect it to be this hard!”

Posing an opportunity to socialise and stay fit for the next swimming season, cross country was also a fun experience for Rahul.

“Running here is fun,” said Rahul. “The trails are nice and the coaches are very supportive.”

Moreover, he was shocked by the positivity and perseverance demonstrated by his fellow students, which in the end encouraged him to keep running.

“There are some people here who come from places that don’t offer opportunities like this,” said Rahul.

Indeed, for Aruzhan Kuanyshbek, student of Exeter Summer, her school at Kazakhstan only offers soccer, volleyball and basketball. Having run for the first time at Exeter, she not only became healthier but also had a better mindset and outlook on her health.

“I want to thank the coaches here especially,” said Aruzhan. “I can now run the big loop without stopping, and I’ve never felt healthier.”

Health seems to be a recurring topic at Exeter, with fellow student Luigi Daccò vowing to become vegetarian during his stay here. After watching the movie “Before the Flood”, he was inspired to eradicate all meats from his diet.

“I originally planned to eat less beef for the environment, what with cows producing methane,” said Luigi. “However, I decided to stop eating all meat, once I realized that animals are treated so cruelly.”

Expecting a smooth transition to becoming a vegetarian, Luigi was shocked to discover how difficult it was to stop eating meat.

“I realized how much I love eating [meat]”, said Luigi. “I keep trying to remind myself that it’s for the cause!”

Fortunately, Exeter proved to be very helpful for his vegetarian diet. With a plethora of vegetarian food choices, Luigi was able to keep up his meals.

“Back where I’m from, everyone loves to eat meat,” said Luigi. “I don’t know what to expect when I get back!”

Although Exeter Summer is ending soon, the experiences, be they new or challenging, will stay with the students forever. To be remembered as the summer where students stepped out of their comfort zones with the support of friends around them, this summer will stay in their hearts.