Summer in Philips Exeter Academy – Thanade McCoole (5th Year)

Summer in Philips Exeter Academy

Thanade McCoole (5th Year)

This summer, I had the opportunity to go to a fantastic place called “Phillips Exeter Acadamy” in New Hampshire. I applied to get into the summer program last year and not long after I submitted my essay’s, they emailed me back telling me that they had accepted me. I had mixed emotions about going to a summer camp but 5 weeks doing academic study, athletics and activites, in a completely new setting, sounded quite exciting.

Phillips Exeter Academy (PEA), a fulltime private boarding school located in Exeter, runs this summer program every year where students from all over the world enroll in it. They pride themselves in their diversity and it really shows in the student body. Out of the 750 students who attended, over 50 countries were represented and as for the American Students, 43 out of the 50 states, respectively. The campus was very different to ones that I have experienced before. It was laid out like a college with different buildings and blocks scattered around the place along with dorms or houses. I stayed in a dorm named “Merril house” and alike the rest of the other dorms, fell in the general area near the dining hall. I loved the food there because boarding school has taught me not to be picky when it comes to food. They had everything from waffle makers to ice cream machines and soft drink dispensers!

What makes Phillips Exeter Academy different to any other school, is their method of teaching. They use a unique method called “Harkness”. As quoted on the website, “Here at Exeter, we believe learning is best done collaboratively by as diverse a set of students as we can assemble, and while that learning experience is not at all confined to our classrooms, there is no qustion that the quintessential example of ‘youth from and for every quarter’ is our signiture Harkness tables. This is the academic heart of our institution and the best example of how we all learn to think more creatively, deeply and compassionately when we experience the view points of others”. – Tom Hassan (Principle)

The first thing they told us when we stepped foot in class was that a good class session would mean that the teacher would say less than 10 sentences throughout the whole period. My first thought was that it was going to be a walk in the park however I soon found out I was very wrong. Students would come to class prepared to share, discuss and discover on the particular the subject you were doing. 12-15 students would gather around large oval wooden tables (Harkness Table) whilst the teacher was presenting a theory or point. You would voice your opinion and work off the opinions of others. It was a completely new way of learning for me but I loved it. Although it was difficult at first, we soon adapted which made it far more interesting, especially because everyones viewpoints corresponded to their country of origin. For example, in my Economics and business course, we were talking about Inflation, and a peer of mine from Venezuala described the whole situation about Chavez and how he ran the country into the ground. You appreciate learning so much more when it comes from someone your own age, that has prior insight and knowledge in what they are saying, rather than a teacher just blabbing at the whiteboard for hours on end. In simpler terms, its a way of interacting with other minds, listening carefully, speaking respectfully, accepting new ideas and questioning old ones, using knowledge, and enjoying the richness of human interaction.

Along with the Economics and business course I did, I studied Anatomy and Human Physiology, and a creative writing course. Over 200 courses are available ranging from leadership programmes to molecular biology. However enjoyable the “Harkness method” of learning was, I think found a flaw in it. How does it work for subjects like Maths or Science? There’s only a right and wrong answer and not much room for much else. Sciences Yes you can debate on certain theories and such but in conclusion, the “Harkenss Method” is definitly better suited to some subjects than others.

After school ended, we had sports activities. Bear in mind this school is the top boarding school in the whole of America, which meant they had every single sporting facility known to man and boys. Tennis courts, baseball fields, soccer and football fields until the eye could see. Over the 5 weeks I played sports like squash, american football, weightlifting and swimming. Everyday there were 5:20am buses to the beach to go for a morning swim and to watch the sunrise. It was only a 20 minute drive to the coast and although the Atlantic ocean was freezing, it was actually suprisingly worth waking up for. Over the course of the next few weeks, we went to water parks, theme parks, college tours, Professional MBL (major baseball league games) and loads more trips.