Written by Great Books on Friday, January 17, 2020
Life on the High Seas & the Great Books' Programs: Two Student Perspectives
Jake, from Virginia, is a 2-year camper who is returning for a second voyage at sea and then will head directly to the American West program in Arizona. The adventuresome teen's first Great Books program in 2018 was the two-week adventure in Literary Oxford. Here are some of his past highlights and hopes for the summer ahead.
Indigo, from California, is a 4-year camper who also set sail last summer and is returning in 2020 having loved her crew experience. This will be her fifth year attending Great Books where she has found her "second family" in this warm community of intellectually curious students.
What did you think the Tall Ship would be like and what was the actual experience?
JAKE: "I was hopeful that while on the Tall Ship I would meet new people and discuss literature like I did in Oxford while experiencing life at sea. My actual experience matched my expectations and so much more. Even though the Harvey Gamage looks large, it is actually a very small space which allows you to bond with every Great Books camper and leader as well as the ship's crew. Being on the ship creates a high level of teamwork because the tasks needed to sail the boat require all camper's participation. There was a strong feeling of togetherness."
INDIGO: "I have gone to the Great Books summer program at Amherst for several years now, and I have really found a second family there and absolutely adore the program at that campus. I decided to try the Tall Ship because in addition to returning to the program that is like home for me, I wanted to give something new a shot. However, because I am so attached to Amherst, my expectations for the Tall Ship weren't very high, and I thought that it would be fun and that I would make friends, but it wouldn't be as good as Amherst. What I didn't know was that I would make a second Great Books family on that ship, and come to absolutely fall in love with learning about what it means to be part of the crew on a Tall Ship. Now, I can't even imagine that the Tall Ship wasn't a part of my Great Books experience in the first place."
What were your favorite things about the Tall Ship?
JAKE: "One of my favorite things about the Tall Ship camp was the balance of reading and sailing. It was fun participating in both. Another favorite thing was I felt like I had a more in-depth experience of the literature by being in the actual setting of on a boat at sea. Being on the boat transformed my perspective and placed me closer to the point of view of the characters.
I loved immersing myself in a new environment. Although I have experience being on my grandparents' boat, life on the Harvey Gamage was a completely new opportunity for me. Something I really enjoyed was that all the campers adapted quickly. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this program to someone who hasn't been sailing. Many of my fellow campers were inexperienced with time on the water, but it seemed like everyone adapted quickly and enjoyed it. I loved "roughing it" and thought it was a great addition to the camp. I felt like I was on my own adventure like the adventure we read in Moby Dick. Another thing I enjoyed was it was great fun getting to know people who are professional sailors. They really seemed excited to share their knowledge of sailing with the campers while at the same time appreciating the literature Great Books brought to the ship. It was a cool combination of two different worlds."
INDIGO: "I think the beauty and magic of the Tall Ship can be best summed up in this description of a typical afternoon: a re-enactment of the opening scene of the Tempest featuring the ship's crew, a riveting lecture about one of Walt Whitman's ocean-related poems interrupted by a large sunfish coming close to the ship, and the ending of lecture when we had to take down the mainsail for the night."
Why are you returning to the Tall Ship?
JAKE: I loved my initial experience being at sea. I want to go back because I can't get this experience anywhere else - great literature discussions, life as a sailor, and amazing sites such as beautiful stars, sunsets, sunrises, dolphins, seals, sunfish, and whales. I loved being assigned jobs on the Harvey Gamage and having watch duty - especially watch in the middle of the night.
Even though I am a 16 year old who carries a phone all the time, I appreciated not being allowed to have phone access while on the Harvey Gamage. The absence of phones helped all of the campers become close. Since there was no distractions of phones, campers interacted with each other more. I want to experience the freedom of being with a group of teenagers in a phone-free zone again. Though, I am happy we were allowed to use phones for a few hours on the last day to take pictures and exchange contact information. I am still communicating with campers from the Harvey Gamage today.
INDIGO: Because I love books, the ocean, and growing close to others through a shared experience.
Is there anything you would add to the Tall Ship experience?
JAKE: I would enjoy swimming every day. It was such fun jumping off the Harvey Gamage to swim. Doing this every day would be a great way to end each day and clean off at the same time.
What made you enroll in American West? What sounded most appealing?
JAKE: American West program sounds adventurous. The vast feeling of "nowhereness" on the 300 acres of the Orme School campus while horseback riding, hiking, and trying archery compliment the feelings I had of being far away at sea and learning how to sail a tall ship while on the Harvey Gamage. The excursions to the Grand Canyon and Montezuma's Castle remind me of the excursions to Stonehenge, Bath, and Stratford-Upon-Avon while I was at Oxford. The American West program offers me the opportunity to immerse myself in another new environment. Also, the small number of campers reminds me of the small tight-knit group of Tall Ship campers.
How did the Tall Ship compare with your Oxford experience?
JAKE: "I loved camp at Oxford too. It was so exciting being in England exploring the city of Oxford. I became very close to the other boys in my pod and the two counselors assigned to our pod of 8. Our pod was always together no matter if we were on an excursion, enjoying free time, or eating. Since we were the only boys, we were always together and I still communicate with all of them today. On the Harvey Gamage, the whole group of campers and Great Books staff was like one pod. I really liked this feeling of togetherness.
On the Tall Ship I needed to assist in many ways to support the professional sailing crew. I felt like an important part of a team. At Oxford, I had more freedom. I could play soccer at a field, go shopping in the city, go for a walk or go paddle boating with my pod and counselors during free time. It was also cool living in a college dorm. On the Tall Ship your free time focused on lots of card games, talking, jokes, and playing music. It sounds simple and basic, but is was so much fun. When I compare the two camps, I think of the Tall Ship camp as an adventure and the Oxford camp as an experience.
Overall, I am extremely happy my English teacher recommended me to Great Books. I have loved both camps and would not have done it differently. One camp is not better than the other, just different."