The Forgotten Semester: Summer Living at CMC

The benches between Berger and Benson aren't the beach, or D.C., or even my couch at home. You know, the places most CMCers spend the blissful months of summer.  But there's something special about spending this time on campus: I'm struck with a level of contentment I've never experienced during the academic year. The serene stillness, the silence of this time is extraordinary. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy socializing as much as the next Stag or Athena, but there is a certain beauty and peace of mind at this time.  I don't care whether I've brushed my teeth or put deodorant; I'm free to do quite literally what I wish on campus. Claremont McKenna College during the summer seems worlds away from the academic grind. I apologize if I'm stating the blatantly obvious about summertime at CMC, but let me describe my experience so far. Butterflies float on the breeze. The only sound comes from the wind in the trees tops (and large trucks on the expressway). The only interaction I've had today on campus was with the feral cats that have exploded in population since most students departed. It is like an alternate reality, a sort of post-apocalyptic calm that's oddly wonderful.

The pace of life is also completely different. While I do live off campus, I spend most of my days working on a chemistry research project at the Joint Science Department. There are no papers to write, no problem sets to complete and no events to which I can wear my faux facial hair and  pleather pants. With no rigid structure to rule my life, I feel myself lapsing into a habitual cycle of showing up a bit late for work, making myself turkey sandwiches, and watching old reruns of the “Twilght Zone” for most of the night. CMC's Type A persona becomes a chill, maxed-and-relaxed Type B during the summer months.

Choosing to live off campus has put even more distance between my current daily existence and the CMC life I became accustomed to during my freshman year. I read for pleasure, not for exams. Gourmet meals of Kraft's Easy Mac (with a side of peanut butter toast) replaces fine dining of Collins. I'll admit: at times, it's a lonely lifestyle.  I stroll solo, lone-wolf style, through campus with the hope that I might come across another stray summer school student. Maybe it's the overwhelming body odor that's driven all the others away... just kidding.

Yet the slower pace of summer is having a healing effect on my psyche. In much the same way that your brain needs sleep the night before a big exam to digest all of the material you studied, summer is a time to reflect on all you've learned and apply knowledge to real world situations. I constantly find myself better understanding various laws of chemistry (how long does it take for turkey cold cuts to denature?) and applying the IR theory I learned last semester (winning competitive tournaments of Risk).

Traces of CMC student life from the academic year still exist, albeit in a very much reduced form. The summer student population inhabiting the senior apartments preserves the academic year customs and traditions in the same way that a lone space colony survives on a distant planet light years from their home galaxy. Parties still go on until the wee hours of the morning, beer pong is still as competitive as ever, and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” is still blasted from open windows.

You even come across some students completing  assignments for summer school. Those resilient scholars who can’t seem to get their academic fix during the school year are still seen at their desks until well past midnight. Walking through North Quad in the late afternoon on a week day among those just getting out of class, I almost seem to forget that summer vacation has even begun.

There are still two months of summer until convocation. With CMCers infiltrating nearly every corner of the world, it's important keep in mind that there is a little campus in southern California that you can always call home and misses you just as much as you miss it.

Want more summer Forum reads? Check out Erica Bellman's Non Required Summer Reading List, Anna Pan's suggested summer activities and Adam Griffith's  CMC Summer School Program.