“I am going to summer school!” This declaration will be met with more than one blank stare. The verbal response to this assertion may be glacially posed, as the quizzical searching of your face attempts to render what might be wrong with you: a diagnosed condition perhaps, a possible punishment from parents, a last ditch attempt to graduate?
I was even asked by some faceless barista if summer school at Portland State was remedial college. This stopped me and my frothy iced blended beverage cold. Is summer school at PSU remedial? Was this the community impression of my university? Does the community-at-large think I am taking dumbed down drawing classes and something like Park Block’s History 103 (which includes an exciting trip to a park bench and the towering statue of Abraham Lincoln). I stammered back to the barista’s query that most definitely, “NO, PSU summer session was not remedial college” and it was actually an amazing opportunity to extract something from the university that would be normally missed in the more traditional schedule.
So, not wanting to be a liar, I set out to find this extracted essence, this enlightening experience, the pinnacle of PSU, which is summer session. I looked high and low. What I learned was this:
1. Speak up! To tell the “community member”(what some call the ‘class hole’) in your class that, in fact, you are here to actually learn something and not there to be their therapist, nor their, very, very best friend.
2. Limit personal anecdotes in class. A realization, like a bolt of lightening, that not everyone in the class cares about your lesbian best friend, your crazy aunt Alice who married a Chinese revolutionary or your own sexual breakthroughs with your partner (these are all personal anecdotes that I had the pleasure of witnessing in summer session).
3. When they say intensive, they mean it. “I think I will take a summer intensive language class in my free time.” Read the next phrase slowly and carefully: you will have no free time! Intensive is intensive is intensive. You will be breathing the rarefied air of foreign oxygen and summer will pass you by faster than you can say “��Ole, Ole!”
4. Make faculty friends now (if you can find them on campus) they may give you a job in the future. Summer is the perfect time to schmooze, it just feels more relaxed and, simply, like a natural extension of the sun’s ray. And even though everyone knows your positioning yourself, hey, it is summer and you feel good and you look cute, so go with it.
5. You may never see the person teaching your class again. In my first summer session class, I fell intellectually in love with my professor. Little did I know that she would soon be moving on, moving up, moving far away from PSU. Many of the professors who teach summer classes are graduate students, adjunct faculty or community-based partners who love you one minute and leave you the next. Be cautious. Academics will leave you faster than you can say “better opportunity in another bio-region.”