Alex Zappavigna spent part of his summer at Acadia Institute of Oceanography in Seal Harbor, Maine.
Why did you choose to participate in a summer program?
I have been going to summer camps since I was young. My parents often encouraged me to do them to both get out of my comfort zone and get out of the house. As a relatively antisocial kid, hanging out with the few friends I had at home was not an option. As I grew older, it became less of a “get out of the house” thing and more of a gaining more life experience and having fun deal.
How did you decide which program was right for you?
We found the Acadia Institute of Oceanography simply by searching for camps relating to the things I love most: marine life and oceanography. After looking at some other camps, I settled on this one because of the location and the experiences I would get that no one else had.
What was a typical day in your summer program?
A typical day is alway jam packed. Breakfast at 8, although for early-risers morning labs were offered starting at 7:15. Once we finished eating, it was off to the races to our morning activity. This usually entailed meeting in the lecture hall to learn about what we were going to see, and then loading into the vans to our next destination. This could be to right down the road to Seal Harbor or as far as the top of Mount Cadillac, or sometimes around the building for really interesting labs. Lunch is usually eaten in the field: nothing better than having a BLT on Sand Beach, or a PB and J next to life-filled tidepools. In the late afternoon, we arrive back at the building in time for snacks, outside time, and intense ping pong tournaments before the pre-meal seminars. Often times, this will be a lecture, but occasionally there are hikes and other activities. There’s a bit of freetime before lights-out.
What was the most memorable moment of your summer?
Walking down to just about sea level at low tides, there was a large yet hidden cave in the side of this rockface. And it was gorgeous – extremely high salinity tide pools that shimmered, contained possibly hundreds of anemones, and a peculiar blue tinged algae, along with other harder to find invertebrates (seastars, sea urchins, etc). It really showed all the wonderful things around me that are waiting to be explored.
What advice do you have for teens looking at summer programs?
Look into everything, and don’t be afraid to reach out to camps if you have any questions. After realizing what some camps actually offered, I ended up not going because I knew I wouldn’t enjoy what was happening. Other camps also weren’t very accessible, so asking about some accommodations in advanced before applying was a lifesaver. Be sure to pick a camp where you know you’ll enjoy what you’re doing, and one that pushes you out of your comfort zone to try new things in that area.