Written by Great Books on Wednesday, May 15, 2019
"Great Books has helped me hone my ability to ask effective questions and to lead discussions to find the answers." - Marijke from CT
Marijke, who is celebrating her sixth summer at Great Books this year, shares her perspective on how Great Books continues to facilitate her growth both personally and academically. This fall she will be an incoming freshman at Middlebury College in VT, one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the country.
1. What keeps you coming back to Great Books year after year?
One of the biggest reasons that I have gone back to Great Books summer after summer is because of the people, campers, and Program Assistants (PAs) alike. I have met some of my closest friends through Great Books and even after as long as six years, we continue to talk every single day. I also love having the ability to work with PAs that I have known for multiple years. It’s nice to know that they have been watching me grow, change, and mature from a dorky eighth grader to a much more confident rising college freshman. My love for Great Books has always been about the people.
2. What are the most valuable skills you take back to school each year after a Great Books' summer?
Great Books has helped me hone my ability to ask effective questions and to lead discussions to find the answers. These skills have helped me an incredible amount in both my English and science classes because I know what kinds of questions to ask my peers and instructors, in order to move a conversation along and to get the answers that I need.
3. What is your favorite part of Great Books?
My favorite part of Great Books has always been the open mic night. It gives the campers the ability to push themselves and show off in front of a really welcoming audience. I usually have really bad stage fright, but I always feel like a fish IN WATER when I’m up in front of that supportive peer group.
"Great Books gave me a really supportive and receptive audience with whom I could safely share my poetry and short fiction. Without them, I don’t think any of it would have ever left my notebook!"
4. What life lessons do you still take away from Great Books Summer Program after all these years?
The most important life lesson I learned at Great Books is, “Get out of your comfort zone!” My first year at Great Books, I didn’t really talk to anyone outside of my pod. As I got older, I became more comfortable talking to people and speaking freely in lecture. I think it was the fact that I was living, eating, and socializing with such a varied group of students that it inevitably allowed me to grow.
The second lesson I learned at camp is, “Listen to the people around you.” I think that much of my social growth has been due to having the support of the PAs...I’ve been able to get a lot of advice about the college process and managing personal relationships from people who have recently been in my shoes. In fact, I was introduced to the college that I’m attending in the fall by one of my PAs!
5. How would your life be different if you never went to Great Books?
I would have never developed the confidence I now have with my writing abilities! Great Books gave me a really supportive and receptive audience with whom I could safely share my poetry and short fiction. Without them, I don’t think any of it would have ever left my notebook!
Also, I would never have met people who now mean the absolute most to me—my Great Books friends! I wouldn’t have gone to prom with one of my camp friends, nor would I have met up with another in Disney World in 2018. I would have missed out on getting to share many of my proudest moments and biggest milestones with people that appreciate me, as much as I appreciate them.
"The most important life lesson I learned at Great Books is Get out of your comfort zone!... The second lesson... Listen to the people around you."
6. What advice would you share with current and prospective Great Books students on how to get the most out of the program?
- Make friends with your PAs: The PAs are some of the kindest mentors you’ll likely ever get the pleasure of interacting with and they know a lot about life, in addition to the literature you’re going to read. They’re also really fun people generally, and are never too busy to sit down and talk with you if you’re having a hard time.
- Take full advantage of your lectures and special guests : Both the faculty and the guests want to answer your questions, so ask them! Even if you're nervous push through it and you will see how inspiring their answers and advice are.
- Remember to get enough sleep every night: Being well rested makes you better able to participate in all of the fun things the Great Books team puts together for you during the weeks you’re on campus.
7. What one piece of advice would you share with your younger self?
Spend less time worrying about the opinions of the people around you and spend more time getting to know how great they are!
Bonus Question: What is your favorite book and why?
My favorite book of all time would have to be Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. Plath's autobiographical writing style really resonated with me because she did her best to show her readers that things will eventually get better even if it feels like you’re being dragged over a bed of nails the entire time. She is also my all-time favorite poet!