by Nicole Martinez
TERRA Environmental Research Institute, Miami, FL
The following article is by Nicole Martinez, one of the recipients of the Junior Summer Stipend Award given by NEHS for summer study programs. Nicole studied at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
Upon first arriving at Cornell University’s North Campus I was, to say the least, absolutely terrified—exhilarated, of course, but also anxiety-ridden at the prospect of making friends, passing the class, and enjoying the environment. Luckily, such worries were soon put to rest. The campus is absolutely gorgeous, old stone buildings rising high into the sky, rich green grass, trees everywhere. People sometimes complain that Ithaca is too isolated, but it’s more serene than anything. The quaint atmosphere is perfect for getting work done. Friends in class were easy to make as they all loved literature enough to immerse themselves in a college-level English course for three weeks.
As for the actual academic experience, I can honestly say I wasn’t prepared for exactly how equally amazing and challenging it would be. I took the course “Genius and Madness in Literature,” a three-week course that focused on discussing the fundamental question: what defines genius and what defines madness? Were they two sides of the same coin, did they have a line down the middle separating the two, was it a never ending cycle between the two, etc. We poised these questions concerning the characters and dynamics we encountered in a variety of materials—short stories, novels, poems, music, movies—as well as philosophical work, including works by Goethe, Poe, Balzac, Kant, Kafka, and Freud. Our professor, Professor Schwarz, told us that some of these texts we would not even encounter until our sophomore year of college. The layout of the course consisted of reading a different text every night and receiving paper topics on Tuesday. We’d select a topic of our choice and work on it throughout the week. It was rather difficult to read twenty pages of Kant in one night, but it really pushed us into the college student mindset necessary to excel in the class. It was very much the typical college experience with no coddling of any kind. We had guest lecturers from the Film Studies, Poetry, and Music departments to talk to us about the different components of their areas of study and how they coincide with genius and/or madness. They opened up our minds, encouraged us to question the norms and names society as engraved in our minds, and to see the ways of the world in general.
The experience was just the right balance of independence (going out into town with friends on the weekend) and responsibility (getting laundry done, meeting paper deadlines). It gave a true taste of the college life with no sugar-coating. I thank everyone that supported me (including NEHS) even if it was just words of encouragement. Three weeks were just a taste of my future path as an English (and Psych) major, and I can wholeheartedly say the fall of my freshman year of college cannot come soon enough. If the opportunity ever comes up to spend a few weeks on a college campus, learning from actual college professors, I urge you to take advantage of such an opportunity.
The Junior Summer Study Stipend is presented to members of National English Honor Society (NEHS) who are high school juniors, rising to the senior class in the fall of 2014. This award is intended to support students who have been selected or who will be attending a summer learning program that is related to English studies in a direct way. Up to two awards for $750 will be offered each year. Applications will be accepted between April 1 and May 5, 2014.