Written by Great Books on Tuesday, March 26, 2019
"Great Books was instrumental in helping me achieve the confidence that has guided me on my life path thus far." - Leigh from FL
Leigh is an enthusiastic Great Books' alumna who attended our Amherst College program for two weeks each summer for six years. Today, she is a student at Duke University School of Law. Leigh offered to share her perspective on Great Books and its impact on her life journey.
1. What new skills did you take back to school after each summer at Great Books?
My critical thinking skills were more thoroughly nurtured during my two weeks each summer at Great Books. Coming back to school, I brought an entirely new developed body of knowledge and the ability to apply it in my classwork and in my classroom conversations.
"The friendships I made during my summers at Great Books taught me that my people were out there and I need never sacrifice a piece of who I was to fit in with a group."
2. How did Great Books help you excel in college?
Great Books taught me to be vocal in discussions…There was probably nothing I was more terrified of than the idea of all of my peers, who I saw as exponentially more intelligent than me, hearing me respond saying something stupid, or confusing, or even utterly wrong… things changed…I raised my hand to voice an idea. [In college] I was the most vocal student in one of my classes, and I spoke freely in all my other classes. I don’t think that I would have experienced that growth, that development in courage, without my years at Great Books.
3. What life lessons did you take away from Great Books Summer Program?
Great Books taught me to try the things that scared me. One of my first summers, I took part in the theater elective even though public speaking terrified me. Another summer, I did the music elective and when our instructor was asking for songwriters I very hesitantly volunteered. The idea of writing something creative that someone else would be saying aloud to a crowd of people terrified me. I am still not quite sure what possessed me to raise my hand but I did and I survived. I consider it a personal win.
Great Books also taught me that there were other people out there who shared the same interests, quirks, and ideas. Before Great Books, I had not quite found my place in the social context but the friendships I made during my summers at Great Books taught me that my people were out there. I learned I never needed to sacrifice a piece of who I was to fit in with a group.
"Everything new I tried stemmed from the strength I built during my pivotal years when I spent my summers at Great Books," said Leigh.
4. What advice would you give to current or perspective Great Books students on how to get the most out of the program?
- Introduce yourself to everyone! There were so many people whom I did not start getting to know until the end of the summer, including those who I attended with for multiple years. I wish that I could have gotten to spend more time with those people.
- If possible go for more than a week, and if you can, go for more than two weeks at a time. Once you get there, you are not going to want to leave.
- Don't be afraid to speak up in lecture and don’t beat yourself up about not speaking up in lecture. When you are ready, you will do it, and you will be proud of yourself.
5. How would your life have been different if you didn’t attend Great Books?
Great Books was instrumental in helping me achieve the confidence that has guided me on my life path thus far. Without that confidence, I do not know that I would have felt so empowered to study what I was passionate about in college. Everything new I tried stemmed from the strength I built during my pivotal years at Great Books.
6. What are some of your most cherished Great Books memories?
I made amazing friends at Great Books, and the late nights and early mornings with my pod are some of the most memorable times from my summers. There was one particularly special morning, where my pod woke up early and went out to the war memorial to watch the sunrise. It was one of the most beautiful moments I have been a part of. After the sun rose, we all rolled down the nearby hill. I still remember that morning so clearly.
A few other memories that remain with me were a weekend trip to Boston where all of us got excited to visit a book store (I think it was just a Barnes & Noble, but that just goes to show what total book nerds we all were). Another is the camp dance where two of our Program Assistants taught us to swing dance and we spent the rest of the dance swing dancing to every song, no matter the genre.
"Thinking back, Great Books will always be one of the most meaningful parts of my life," said Leigh.
Bonus Question: What is your favorite book and why?
While this changes pretty regularly, the one book that always stays in the running for my number one is Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. It has probably been over 15 years since I read it but it will always hold a special place in my heart. I read it with my mom—making the powerful female relationships in the book all the more meaningful—and thinking about it always brings me to a place of warmth. I spent my childhood listening to my mom read to my brother and I. Although she read hundreds of books to us this is the one that encapsulates that entire stage of my life for me.