Not stuck with the same 200 kids

Students pile on the couch together in the first floor commons.

Halsey Smith hangs out with her dormmates on the first floor of East Fairchild. Pictured left to right are Abby Stockmal, Lauren Fromkin, Madeline Rosenberg, Jessie Chaiet, Sydney Bergan and Halsey Smith. Photo by Marissa Martinez

In East Grand Rapids, Michigan, I spent 13 years going to school with the same 200 kids from kindergarten to senior year. Friend groups started in preschool.

That is why I love leaving for the summer.

For five years, I sprinted across the sand dunes of Lake Michigan at an all-girls camp. Last year I scaled 19,000-foot mountain peaks in Peru.

And this year I trekked to Cozy Noodles for Thai food and sang “Mamma Mia” in our dorm’s common room while ignoring looming assignments.

At the Medill cherubs program, I met journalists who single-handedly developed their newspapers’ websites, interviewed sources in three different languages and, like me, wrote multiple articles in a single day. They doubled as musicians who spent their free time connecting through songs, podcast enthusiasts who fulfilled their dream of editing audio just like their idols on “The Moth” and closeted science lovers who discussed their favorite coding programs over pancakes and bacon at Clarke’s diner.

With them, I have embraced my “nerd camp” alter ego, following every famous publication and editor-in-chief on Twitter and talking at 1 a.m. about how much I admire The New York Times’ op-ed section. I have treasured my five weeks in a beautiful space, alongside passionate people, learning about a subject that is so crucial today.

For me, working toward deadlines, sending out dozens of emails to potential sources and reporting on #RealNews has created some of my strongest friendships.