PEA Summer Programme Experiences 2016 - Cecilia

I have always been excited about traveling to different places, meeting new people and doing new things, and this year I got that wonderful opportunity. It all started early January when I received an email from the secretary to principal stating that I have been awarded the scholarship to go and attend the famous Phillips Exeter Academy. I never for once thought that I would ever be chosen to attend these prestigious school, but as they say opportunity comes once; so I did not think two twice about grabbing it, who knows I perhaps would never seen this school.

The journey to get to Exeter was not as easy as someone may think. I had to go through being denied a visa but thanks to our non giving up and supportive teachers like Mrs Dzide and Mr Domey and our caring and concerned principle it was possible for me to gain the visa. However, that is a different experience for a different day. Today I am here to let you know about my experience at the Phillips Exeter academy summer school.

Upon arrival at the Boston Logan international airport I had already accumulated a two day anxiety to see Exeter. We were cordially welcomed by the summer school facilitators who had been patiently waiting for us.  I was very excited when I saw students from different parts of the world in Exeter and just to be precise 47 countries were represented.

We were allocated to different dormitories  upon arrival to the school, mine was Langdell. Each student in the dorm had an advisor amongst the four advisors available in a dorm. We had fun weekly interactions with the dormitory advisors where we could go out together for ice cream or pizza. Every weekend, a different dormitory had different activities to bring the students together. The activities ranged from pizza nights, spa nights, movie nights, to dance night where students got to bond with each other.

At Exeter, I took debate and argumentation,a course I was very enthusiastic about, considering I love arguing. This, was enhanced further by my teacher Mr Heal when he told me that debate is not just arguing to win but also to be able to convince your opponent to believe in what you are saying and backing it up with facts. This I found very interesting as I debated in a very opinion based topic; there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. I know you are wondering how you will be able to convince someone that there is no good or bad, so was I then. The numerous number of topics my class and I had to research on and debate polished my public speaking and research skills which recently,  we were taught form the ATLs( approaches to teaching and learning)

In addition to debate, I took a math course which I found really interactive as we had pop quizzes and lots of practice to polish the geometry part of math which I took. Now I know you are wondering how the classes were like, I will tell you in one word ' Harkness'. This is a method of teaching and learning that is mainly student oriented where students and teachers sit around a table and discuss, with each person contributing actively to the discussions. The discussions range from solving math problems together to reading and analyzing different pieces of news. This method was really beneficial in helping students understand the importance of contributing to class discussion.

Phillips Exeter academy just like SOS HGIC is not just a study place for students. It has a lot of extra curricular activities and trips that enable students to improve their social skills and apply some of the knowledge in class out of class. There I had a lot of fun experiences visiting places both in Exeter town such as the Exeter museum, going to out of town trips like to Boston and tour the famous Dartmouth college that recently paid a visit to our school, doing other activities such as sport and speaking of sports we were required to do sports an hour four days a week, and honestly this was not as bad as one can imagine. Furthermore, joining the black lives matter club to address police brutality against people of color in the states opened up my mind to the challenges people face. My favorite trip was the visit to Boston town where we took a little tour of the town, got a little  lost because it's all part of the experience, visited malls attended the Fourth of July celebrations, ate tasty yet different food and finally I got to perform what I love most ; dance  to the school on the second last day.

While in Exeter I developed a love for foreign food such as tortillas, garlic bread, mozzarella sticks and tacos which became so dear to my stomach. Every Tuesday in Exeter we had tacos, a meal I had always heard about but never tasted. Now that I have tasted I know why every one loves it. As if that was not enough I went frequently to Stillwells,a shop where lots of ice ream was sold. It turned out out be my favorite hang out spot with friends where we would watch the sunset as we took ice cream, my favorite flavor of ice cream being the purple cow. Strange isn't it?

All might seem so fun and bubbly but I also had some challenges. Adjusting to the food being one of them. Unlike HGIC most of the food there was not salty and had no pepper. I know someone may say that I come from Kenya and we do not take pepper but to be honest I have been in Ghana for two years and pepper has become an important part of the diet, so food without pepper was hard to eat. Time zone change was also hard because I could not keep myself awake by 6pm in the evening and that would be 10pm GMT so ended up sleeping through dorm check in which was expected to be by 9pm. It took me a whole week to get used to that.

Phillips Exeter academy, to me was a great way of spending my summer vacation even though at first I was contemplating because I thought I would not have as much fun as I would have in Kenya but as I got integrated into the system I found even more fun than I would have probably had in Kenya. This made me realize that aside from partying and sleeping in the summer, education and change of environment can actually be fun in the summer. 

 Finally I would like to thank the Principal  and Mrs Dzide for their support and leadership throughout the summer program not forgetting all those who contributed to making our summer experience fun and educative.
Cecilia Atienoo