Between July 2nd and 3rd of 2016, students from about 47 nationalities and 42 states of the United States embarked on journeys from their various homes and communities to our common hub for the summer, Phillips Exeter Academy. I say July 2nd because some students started some 5000 miles from Exeter, New Hampshire, where Phillips Exeter Academy is situated. Similarly, Mimi, Cecelia, Nadia and I left Ghana on the 2nd of July, at 22:00 local time and arrived in Boston at 12:29 local time on July 3rd, a shaking 18 hour embarkment.
The first week I must admit was most trying for me. I had not yet figured out that the main courses for the meals were to the left side of the Dining Hall thus for the whole week, I ate pasta with salsa which was provided as an alternative or a side. Hot sauce didn't help emulate an incorporation of pepper from the beginning of preparation of the salsa and it was not exactly what I desired. However this soon eased as I came to realize that they served continentally themed dishes to the other side of the dining hall, that were almost never the same during the five week period. Fantastic, is it not ?
Generally over the five week period of school, we were involved in a plethora of things. There was Field Day the first Saturday, in which we played inter dormitory games, and my dormitory, Dunbar emerged as the female champions. There were subsequent dormitory competitions for example dodgeball during a Thursday night, the time being weird considering prep was during the same timeframe. Dances, or more relatable to the school, formal jams, were hosted almost every other week. We donned formal dress but the dancing still went down just as much as it does here sans the more intricate dance moves my 8 counts schoolmates can put up. These were very enjoyable even if you were watching other people dancing or were involved in the action and thus were the spectacle yourself. The other students were amazed by our hip and waist movements to the upbeat songs to the point that one Brazilian student imitated us once. That's an A for her effort.
We were also allowed to explore the town of Exeter in our free times, and interact with the town people who looked rather affluent but conservative. They were very pleasant to us, however if I had a dollar for everytime someone asked how I was so proficient in English, which was always replied with a polite, it's my first language, I would be about $250 richer. In addition to these, there were Wednesday and weekend trips to Boston and some malls, others to hike and quite interestingly, there was a trip for blueberry picking. Furthermore, I was involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, where other students of similar creed to us shared their fears of a future for themselves due to rising police brutality, jingoism and racism.
Now, to address the school in summer school, I took courses in Advanced Problem Solving in Maths, Advanced Chemistry and Global Justice but, initially, I took a course in Debate and Argumentation. Quite surprisingly to myself and probably some of my friends here at school, I did not like this manner of Debate. People in this class were armed with great aptitude in argumentation; however, I could not concisely identify speech techniques in a speech by Charlie Chaplin to start off. I felt short handed from the beginning, and that might have also been due to the fact that English Language has never conventionally been my forte back here at school. Luckily, the summer school office was open to course changes in the earlier part of the first week and I used the opportunity to do something I had a passion for, which was and remains Chemistry. I excelled in both Chemistry and Maths, achieving Honors in both fields. However, the course I found most impactful and somewhat life orientation changing was that in Global Justice, taught by a Ghanaian teacher, Dr Boadi. Through the method of the Harkness, I was introduced to the take of my classmates and quite subtlely their countries' as well, on issues of first globalization and later the plight of women, documented by Nicolas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn, in a book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Through the study and discussions of women and child brothel keeping and prostitution, fistulas resulting from sexual assault, it was revealed that feminism needs to take on a global voice because in Eastern societies, including our very nation, it is rather ruthless and brutal. Harkness here also brought to heed my weaknesses in assertiveness, which I wish to work on.
Impact on academics
Similar to HGIC's propagation of individual and self dependent thinking, Harkness promotes informed independent but collaborative thinking instead of the conventional lecture style where the student is fed information. This is advantageous because in the outside world, there is no one to lay paths for you and you have to make your own decisions. To contribute informed ideas at the Harkness Table, one also has to do some research, therefore using some of the Approaches to Teaching and Learning Skills taught through the IB. One would have to reference, just as is done here, the only difference being that Exeter mainly uses the Chicago Manual Style.
In conclusion, all these experiences would not have been possible without Mr. Titi-Ofei, our principal and Ms. Dzide Tei, the school's Exeter Summer School Coordinator, who took us through each and every step in preparation for Summer school with patience and a nurturing attitude.