Adventures of the Mind

August 7, 2015 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Only two days after getting back to Vermont from Jordan, I left again to go to a conference in Philadelphia called Adventures of the Mind. In retrospect, it wasn't a good idea to leave again so soon; I don't have enough time at home as it is and I think since I was missing Burlington I couldn't enjoy Adventures quite as much. Aside from that, though, it was a good experience, and I definitely learned a lot!

I found out about Adventures of the Mind when my guidance counselor got an email from them in May. I was invited to spend a week at Rosemont College just outside Philadelphia, with about 130 other students, learning from around 50 mentors who are successful in many varying disciplines. In essence, it was an opportunity to enjoy many small, personalized TED talks, then spend time with the mentors and learn even more. There were also other activities, including evening game nights (poker, chess, and cards), a tour of UPenn, and a visit to the Constitution Center. The camp is of course very expensive to put on, but all of the “scholars” are sponsored by various organizations and foundations, so that more teenagers can have the opportunity to come.

Unfortunately, it wasn't quite as well-run as the impeccable NSLI-Y trip, and it sometimes felt like we were trying to cram too many activities into the time we had. The schedule we were provided with also wasn't accurate, so sometimes it was difficult to figure out when talks were happening – I missed one on dolphin psychology that I was really looking forward to because it didn't happen when it was scheduled! But that and the homesickness were really the only downsides, and all in all it was definitely worthwhile.

In lieu of writing out another novel, since so much happened in that week, I'm going to share a few somewhat isolated memories from my time at Rosemont. I hope you enjoy them!

My first memory: several of the sessions in the beginning of the camp were devoted to coding, and then one day we all participated in a hackathon. Unfortunately almost nobody had any experience in coding, especially in the beginners' program we were using: MIT's AppInventor. My group tried to make an app called “Pi Time”. Theoretically, at 3:14 every day, this app would make a little pop-up saying “It's Pi Time! Would you like to send a message to your friends?”, and then you could choose who to send a “Happy Pi Time” message to. We had big plans to expand it to 7:11, 12:34, and 11:11 as well! Another camper, Ezekiel, tried very hard to make it work (with me helping as much as I could), but neither of us knew what we were doing and we eventually had to admit defeat. It was a good idea though!

Another memory: one night, as a camp, we watched The Joy Luck Club, based on the novel of the same name by Amy Tan. It was a beautiful but extremely sad movie about mother-daughter relationships and the struggle to understand people you love, especially across cultures. Of course, by the end of it half the camp was crying, and it was a nice bonding time with a few of my new friends to cry together and talk about our moms. Amy Tan was one of our mentors, and I spent a lunch hour sharing a seat with another student at her incredibly popular table, listening to her fascinating stories.

We were in dorms without AC (despite the fact that the theater and cafeteria were air-conditioned and often too cold), but luckily it got a little cooler later in the week. For a few days, my roommate and I mostly bonded over the heat, until we worked together to get a flying cricket-bug out the window at one in the morning, and it was such a production that after that we were much more comfortable with each other.

An especially important memory is definitely the friends I made at the camp, and the moments we shared in between lectures and activities. In the bookstore at UPenn, Ezekiel and several more of us spent ages just discussing our favorite books, and I was so glad there were people that wanted to do that! One of my closest friends there, Autumn, loved to sing just as much as I do and we sang duets several times (she was very good at harmonies), much to the confusion of everyone else! I got to talk about NSLI-Y with Megan, Ayesha, and Alia, and encourage them to apply. And one night after dark we had s'mores, and I sat on the lawn to enjoy them with my new friends Julia, Katie, Maggie, and Stephany.

And last but of course not least, we had some of the best presentations and speakers I've ever heard. Here are some highlights: Zahi Hawass, Egyptian archaeologist and Egypt's former Minister of Antiquities Affairs, spoke to us about his work in Giza and the Valley of the Kings. Terry Garcia, the chief Science and Exploration Officer at National Geographic, talked about the society's work and the kinds of explorations that are happening right now. His presentation started with a wonderfully inspiring video that made most of the camp want to leap up and become adventurers, other mentors included! Richard Lederer, an author and grammarian, talked about the English language and made me fall in love with linguistics all over again. Leslie Griffith talked about sleep and its effects on the brain through experiments on fruit flies. Frances Jensen, a neuroscientist, talked about the teenage brain. A panel of explorers including Amy Tan (who apparently is an explorer as well), Mark Moffett (biologist and entomologist), and Frank Sulloway (who studies wildlife in the Galapagos) talked about exploring, discovering new species, and success. Finally, Alan Zweibel, a comedy writer who worked on Saturday Night Live, had us all rolling with laughter as he recounted the ups and downs of his career.

The time that we got to spend with these mentors and the opportunity to meet 130 amazing teenagers from around the U.S. meant that this camp was invaluable. It was also cool to spend time so near to where I'll be going to college (Bryn Mawr is about four minutes away from Rosemont), and I'm convinced I'm going to love the climate, despite the heat. I'm home for only a week before we go to visit my great-aunt and -uncle in Quebec, Canada, so I'm enjoying it while I can!


Tour of UPenn
Picture with Poets Alysia Harris and Kevin Powers
Independence Hall


August 15, 2015
Pi time would want to make me eat one of Aunt Pat's pies every day!
Love, Aunt Barbara
August 15, 2015
GREAT-uncle! It may be true, but it makes me feel so very old! Peter will do, ma'am.

Really looking forward to seeing you and working with you.

Kathleen & Ralph:
August 15, 2015
We're undecided what we most admire - the whole-hearted embrace you give every new 'adventure' - the amazing people they bring into your life - or how you remain grounded in family and relationships. You are a treasure, girl, and by just being you, you teach others how to live. Amuse-toi bien au Canada!
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