Jonas Kristensson spent part of summer at the College of William & Mary's National Institute of American History and Democracy.
Why did you choose to participate in a summer program or go to overnight camp?
I’ve always tried to do fun and interesting things during the summer, so I was looking at quite a few programs. An overnight pre-college program was something I hadn’t tried yet, and the prospect of meeting new people and getting a taste of college life appealed to me. It helped that I was a rising senior in high school, which meant that I was at a critical stage in my college search process.
How did you decide which program or camp was right for you?
I have always loved American history, so William & Mary is a school that I’ve been considering for a while now. I decided on the National Institute of American History and Democracy because it is a great way to become more familiar with W&M and meet interesting people at the same time. That’s not to say NIAHD is only for prospective W&M students – some of the friends I made don’t intend to apply there at all – but it helps to spend extended periods of time on a college campus regardless of your plans for college.
What was a typical day in your summer program or at camp?
On weekdays, we would wake up at around 7 and walk up to the dining hall for breakfast. Then we would usually travel to a nearby museum or historical landmark that was relevant to our course material. Anywhere from noon to 3 p.m., we would get back to campus and have lunch in the dining hall. After lunch, we’d get together in a classroom for our seminar discussions which were led by graduate students from W&M. Then we’d have some free time before dinner, and after dinner there was often a guest speaker. By the time that was finished, it was usually around 8 p.m., so we’d go back to our dorms to read and hang out. The weekends were more flexible and laid back, which was good because we had essays due every week. It was a busy few weeks, but there was still plenty of time to explore Williamsburg and get to know the other students.
What was the most memorable moment of your summer?
Without a doubt, NIAHD was the best part of my summer. It’s hard to choose a specific moment, but I can say my favorite part of NIAHD was the people. I met students from all over the country (and some from abroad), and they all brought interesting personalities and world views to the table. It was the most interesting and engaging group of students I’ve ever met, and we are still in touch to this day!
What advice do you have for teens looking at summer programs or camps?
Look for something that is both new and interesting to you. I’m from Los Angeles, so staying across the county in Virginia for a few weeks was a pretty substantial change of environment for me. But I had a common interest in history with everyone I met, and that made it easy to adapt. The location was ultimately a minor detail; I think focusing on activities or interests that you really love will lead you to a positive experience.