What I Did Last Summer

By Norman Boucher / September / October 2006
December 4th, 2006

Changing the world is a full-time thing. Nine months a year just isn’t enough.

That’s one of the conclusions you might draw from a quick review of the ways Brown students spend their summers. For the second consecutive year, in August the BAM e-mailed students and asked what they’d been up to since leaving campus (or, in some cases, high school) last May. Seventy-three students responded—hardly an exhaustive survey, and certainly not a scientific one, but revealing nevertheless.

Timothy Cook

The tone of the e-mails ranged from witty (“What have I been doing this summer? Trying to befriend President Ruth Simmons on Facebook.com. College is all about connections”) to breathless (“I hope everyone else’s summer break is just as great!”) to acerbic (“I have been in NYC … working for the news division of one of the big three networks and observing the disillusioning workings of the modern media machine”).

Some students interned at investment firms, at Forbes or the New Yorker, while others worked on plays or wrote songs. Jen Hustwitt ’07, cocaptain of the women’s rugby team, played on the U.S.A. under-twenty-three team, while tennis team member Emily Ellis ’10 competed in tournaments in France.

“I’d say I enjoyed the standard (read: generic) Brown student’s summer,” wrote Matthew Soursourian ’08. “Traveled extensively to an economically challenged country, researched with a professor, volunteered at a nonprofit, and babysat to pay rent. Remarkable? Hardly. Contrived? Admitted.”

Just Workin’

Many students reminded us that Brown is expensive and that earning money is not always edifying. “I started my own one-summer business hauling brush and junk in my little hometown of Grinnell, Iowa,” wrote Woody Schneider ’08. “I love being my own boss, so I can feel free to spend twenty minutes talking to Shorty when I am bringing a load to the dump.”

Kyle Poyar ’10 worked “a ridiculous number of hours (fifty-sixty per week)” as a barista at Seattle’s Best Coffee and as a “lot lizard” at his dad’s used car business. Oh, he also was an aide for a Democratic candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives. Soojean Kim ’10 did “recovery” at a JC Penney store, “meaning I clean up the customer’s crap after they leave the fitting room messy and ugly. However, the people at work are fun."

’Round the World

(Timothy Cook)

A third of the students worked in or visited a total of twenty countries on five continents. Karen Kudelko ’07 volunteered in a Liberian refugee camp in Ghana. Three students lived in Israel, studying Hebrew or volunteering with Magen David Adom, the Israeli Red Cross.

In July Rebecca Mintz ’08 began an intensive Hebrew language program in Haifa. “Unfortunately,” she wrote, “the conflict [with Hezbollah] started a little bit less than a week after my program began.” It soon relocated to Jerusalem. Nadia Maccabee ’o8, the Magen David Adom volunteer, treated victims of car accidents and scorpion stings. She helped bring a woman to the hospital “after she had a psychiatric breakdown due to seeing a Katyusha rocket fall in her hometown of Haifa.… Though I am pretty close to Gaza, I am, luckily, too far south to be threatened by the Hezbollah rockets.”

In the Lab

Seven students reported conducting research in labs, museums, or companies. Ana Van Gulick ’09 helped with memory research at Syracuse, while Hans Dietrich ’08 worked on bone growth and regeneration at the Stanford pediatric surgical research lab (he also worked as a commissioned artist in watercolors and oils on the side). Karen Sripada ’09 studied physics at Loyola and worked at the Field Museum of Natural History extracting DNA from lice she shook from birds that had died after crashing into Chicago skyscrapers.

Doing Good

Thirteen students reported working for some kind of nonprofit group. Sophie Choukas-Bradley ’08 worked in Windsor, New Hampshire, at a short-term residential treatment program for children with serious emotional disorders, and Jon Wang ’10 toiled on an organic farm and wilderness preserve in California’s Los Altos hills. Gabrien Heywood ’08 worked for an affordable housing corporation in Stamford, Connecticut, while Taylor Barnes ’09 interned at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Child Labor Project.

Katie Reisner ’07, who is editor in chief of the Brown Journal of World Affairs, worked at the United Nations Information Centre in Washington, D.C. “Every day,” she says, “I choose whatever strikes my interest from a list of events going on in the city.” She attended as many as shecould then returned to the office “to write reports on what I heard, which then get sent to U.N. headquarters” and distributed to top officials there.

She concluded, “As an international relations concentrator … I cannot believe that I get to do what I have been doing this summer in any sort of legitimate ‘work’ capacity.”

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September / October 2006