Why CTY Rules
August 1998 (perspective of a high school student)
I recently dug up this article that I wrote for my website in August 1998 when I was 14 years old. I had just returned home from the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) summer program and raved about my wonderful experience!
My summer 1998 genetics class at CTY (click photo to enlarge)
Everyone can write about their great experiences but few can actually experience them. I will try to describe my CTY experience but the only way to truly understand CTY is to actually go there. First of all, what is CTY? CTY stands for Center for Talented Youth and is a summer-school program run by John's Hopkins University. Basically, students attend 3-week college-level classes at selected college campuses. Along with learning in the colleges, students also live there in dorms. That is the essence of CTY.
To me, CTY is a three-week escape into a whole other world. For three weeks, I was torn out of my regular life and thrown into an utopia within a college campus. I heard about CTY from my parents' friends whose kids have gone before. My CTY story started in late 1996 when my mom wanted me to take the SAT I. She said that it was a prerequisite to get into CTY. I kept on trying to tell her that there is no way that an 8th grader like me is taking the real SAT's. But in some strange way she persuaded, ah, forced, me to take it. So I had a little less than 2 months to prepare until January 25th came. After taking the test and getting my scores back, I realized that I had well-qualified based on my age criteria. I was planning to go to CTY the summer of 1997 but then I decided to attend summer school at my high school. So CTY was delayed for another year. Finally, in the summer of 1998, my parents sent me off to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to attend CTY 1998 second session and take genetics. That was the start of an adventure that I would never forget.
When I first got there with my dad and unpacked my luggage in my dorm room, I felt very apprehensive since I was a "first-year." I had never been at CTY before but it seemed that everybody else had. They all knew each other and I was a newcomer. I had gone through moving and making new friends before and I hated the feeling at the beginning of the year at a new school. I felt that this was going to be a long and tedious three weeks.
Little did I know the magic of CTY during the first day. By the second day, I had already made lots of friends with people around me. I was amazed at how friendly people were to each other, even to strangers. Because, in fact, everybody at CTY is technically a stranger so there is a common urge to socialize and make friends. At first, I couldn't believe how nice everything was at CTY. It was a bit shocking to see people get along so well with each other.
The social side of CTY was what I enjoyed most. Everybody was nice to you no matter who you were or where you came from. People felt comfortable acting crazily or fooling around. Nobody criticized each other based on demeanor or anything else for that matter. It was a pure social utopia on a microscopic level of maybe 600 people. The best part of CTY has got to be the fact that people can't go home for 3 weeks so there is a complete 24-hour experience. After CTY, I made lifelong friends with people from all over the country and sometimes all over the world. Through the magic of the Internet I have still been able to keep in contact with many of them. Another thing is that along with any society comes traditions. CTY is no exception. There are traditional songs which are played at dances (the CTY Canon songs), traditional things done at dances, the usual traditions of dorm life, etc... The many CTY traditions add to the total experience.
Once again, I reiterate that if you have never been to CTY, I cannot really describe to you why it is so great. The experience is indescribable in words but I am trying my best. I'm trying to clap with one hand here. In conclusion, CTY changed my life. I'm not trying to say that to be corny or anything. It really totally changed the way that I viewed people, school, life, and society as a whole. I learned more about how people tick and how we can all get along better. It was a truly gratifying experience. I won't go into details of my day-to-day activities because frankly, nobody cares. So I will make my closing statement here:
I have no idea why anybody would dislike CTY after spending three (or six) weeks there. To me, it is humanly impossible not to have a good time and also learn a lot in the process.