Summer at Brown University

Summer at Brown University

As a junior in high school, I had no idea what to do with my upcoming summer.

Too old for traditional summer camp but too young to drive anywhere without my parents’ help, I wanted to do something that my parents would support (ie, productive) but that I would still enjoy (ie, really fun).

In early spring of my junior year, I began researching summer programs that would keep me active, both mentally and physically.

Immediately, Summer@Brown caught my eye.

As I started learning more about the program, held every year on Brown University’s campus in Providence, Rhode Island, nearly every aspect resonated with me. Summer@Brown is designed for high school students who are eager to get a taste of college life—taking a class, living on campus, interacting with other intellectually-driven students—without the pressure of a transcript. (Unlike other schools’ pre-college programs, Summer@Brown does not offer any college credit.) Summer@Brown offers close to 200 courses ranging in length from 1–4 weeks, with the opportunity to take multiple courses in succession. The course topics vary widely, from neurological disease to theory of relativity to ancient Greek culture.

I signed up for a course called “Medicine and Society,” which analyzed anthropological and sociological perspectives on Westernized medicine throughout the world. Class met daily, and it included reading assignments, group projects, and essays. In just two weeks, we read passages from foundational texts in anthropology and sociology, such as The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman, which later appeared on my college syllabi. As Summer@Brown students, we were expected to keep up with a college-level workload. For the first time, I had a taste of what it was like to balance class and unstructured time without my parents looking over my shoulder. Ultimately, I felt a lot of pride when I turned in my assignments, because I knew my success was a direct result of my own efforts. Though the work was not numerically graded, I was given an evaluation at the conclusion of the course, which provided valuable feedback about ways to improve my analytical skills. Looking back, I now see that this was also a nice introduction to Brown’s unique grading system.

Of course, the program included much more than just coursework. All students lived on campus in the Brown dorms, which were staffed by current college students who served as RAs. I quickly became close friends with my randomly-assigned roommate, and we started a running group with a few of our other classmates. Other program participants and I explored Thayer Street, the center of Providence’s college life. Between retail stores and coffee shops, we spent hours wandering the promenade, taking in each storefront as though we had never seen a Chipotle before. We even caught a student film at a local indie theater, although we had to skip out before the end in order to beat our curfew (a major selling point for parents). In addition to offering an exciting, independent social experience, the Summer@Brown program also includes helpful workshops for students currently applying to college to get feedback on their essays and advice on choosing colleges. My RA, too, was happy to answer my questions about the college application process and her experience at Brown.

I enjoyed Summer@Brown so much that I encouraged my younger brother enroll at some point during his high school career. Just like me, he found the experience transformative. When I asked him about it recently, this is what he told me.

“My Summer@Brown course in the Theory of Relativity was great. Some of the content was beyond me, as I only had a limited background in mathematical physics at that time, but the instructor did a phenomenal job of ensuring that every student got something useful out of the course. Summer@Brown piqued my interest in physics, and in fact, I can trace my decision to major in Mechanical Engineering to this experience. I would recommend the program to anyone looking for an interesting and hands-on learning experience that is still manageable even without an extensive knowledge of the content.”

The most significant takeaway of my experience was being able to enter my final year of high school excited about the next chapter, with the confidence that I could succeed. As I head off to medical school this fall, I look back fondly at my Summer@Brown experience and know that the opportunity it gave me to cultivate my curiosity about medicine solidified my interest in the field.

Picture of Sarah Azarchi

Sarah Azarchi

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