When I made my decision to attend Rochester, my parents’ approval came with one condition—my first summer would be spent at home. This was hardly a sacrifice considering I was only able to make the 2,500-mile trip home once during the school year. By the time May rolled around, I was more than happy to be headed back to Oregon.
But no matter how willing I was to go home, the fact that I’m from a rural town of 6,000 has certainly impacted the way I’ve spent my summer. No internships at prestigious organizations or university research assisting for me. There are limitations to spending a college summer in a town like mine. Nevertheless, after two months back home, I’m pretty content with what I’ve accomplished.
Here are a few of the ways I’ve spent my time:
Well before the end of the semester, I arranged an internship with my town’s local newspaper. During spring semester, I was an editor for Rochester’s student newspaper, the Campus Times, and took an English class on feature writing. I was excited to put my skills to work and get some real-world journalism experience this summer.
Unfortunately, as I prepared to return home, I was informed that new company rules had banned student internships. My working in the office was no longer a possibility and I was crushed. Luckily, I was able to work with the staff to set up a writing contract. This way, I’d still be able to write articles without breaking the company’s rules and as a plus, I’d be getting paid.
By the end of the summer, I’ll have written four articles for the newspaper and two full-length profiles for the magazine our paper publishes three times a year. While I would have preferred to take on more work this summer, six pieces and substantial field experience isn't something I can be too upset about.
In addition to conducting interviews and writing articles, I've found a few other ways to get involved in my community this summer. Every year, our county library holds a summer reading program for local youth. As a kid I used to participate, attending the weekly program held at the library annex and filling out raffle slips for every book I’d read that summer. Several years ago I was a volunteer, helping run the program along side other teens and library staff. This summer I was lucky enough to return as a volunteer.
Unlike the days of my childhood, the current summer reading program travels to multiple locations around the county and is able to reach 100+ kids each week. This year’s science-themed program has kids conducting experiments and learning the basics of science (oh, and also launching water balloons at volunteers with a giant slingshot). It’s been wonderful to be part of such an awesome program once again and has reminded me how much I love volunteering with kids.
While I wasn't exactly a victim of the “freshmen fifteen,” I certainly wasn't as active as I’d like to have been last school year. I started off well, visiting the gym several times a week, but as classes picked up and I got involved on campus, these visits dwindled to a few times a month. Since coming home, however, I've had all kinds of time to get back in shape.
Central Oregon is the perfect place for outdoor activity (when the state isn't ravaged by wildfires, that is). Up until a week or so ago (when lightning storms set thousands of northwest acres ablaze), I was spending as much time outdoors as possible. Hiking in the nearby mountains and canyons, kayaking in local lakes, and long walks and runs along the irrigation ditches near my house have all been common occurrences this summer. I even participated in a 5k obstacle course mud run in June. And when it’s too hot to go outside (or the air is too smoky to breathe), I turn to yoga. My next challenge: Keeping things up when I get back to Rochester.
In a town that didn't even have a movie theater until I was in high school, it isn't hard to go a little stir crazy. This is particularly true if you've spent the last nine months in a city like Rochester, full of entertainment and cultural activity. While there are times I love living in the country surrounded in every direction by the great outdoors with lots of room to breathe, living a small town lifestyle can also get a bit boring. Fortunately, I've had the chance to have a few big-city adventures this summer to break up the monotonous summer days.
Twice I've had the opportunity to visit Seattle, located roughly five hours away. While in the so-called “Emerald City” (no, not the one in Oz), I visited Pike Place Market, attended a Mariners game, and even got to stay overnight at the University of Washington where my best friend goes to school. In addition to Seattle, I've gone to the much closer metropolis of Portland several times this summer where I gazed at famous art, caught up with a close friend, and ate the best street cart food in the world. These trips have successfully kept me sane these past couple months—feeding my city addiction as I simultaneously savor my time in the country.
One of the best parts of spending the summer at home has been reconnecting with my friends and family. As I make my way toward adulthood with no intention of moving back home, I have very few opportunities left to spend such large quantities of time with the people who populated my childhood. While it is sometimes difficult to keep this in perspective, I’ve done my best to appreciate the specialness of this summer as it might be the last time I spend three full months in my hometown.
On top of catching up with others, this summer has also afforded me the chance to catch up with myself. Last school year, I was extremely busy with my new life as a college student. As a result, I had to set aside a lot of things I used to love to do. But with a fair amount of time on my hands this summer, I've been able to get back to playing piano, reading for fun, cooking, and journaling – little things I've never valued more.