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I am anxiously walking into Buskirk Dorm at Marshall University. There is a huge line going out of the door on this hot, humid day. I look around nervously, wondering which of these unknown teenagers in front of me will be my roommate for the next three weeks. It was like my first taste of college, and I would soon find out that this camp would be my higher education in the arts, for I have never taken an art class.

After a few days, now acclimated to the camp, I wake up and grumpily walk down to breakfast in a dazed semiconscious stupor. I see my new friends, who had saved me a seat, waving me down, and I suddenly light up with energy. I grab my food and sit down and in a moment, I find myself laughing about our newly formed inside jokes. Breakfast ends too soon for us, for we are constantly talking, and we head off to our major discipline (mine is studio art).

Ms. Hanna Kozlowski, our instructor, welcomes us, as usual, with a friendly mien. I start working on my project of the day while talking with others in the studio. We leave the studio for one of our famous Starbucks breaks.

After lunch and more studio time, we were off to dinner and then the interdisciplinary (any art sphere other than our own) activity of the night. My group was going to dance class. In a few minutes, I find myself laughing and trying to contort into the dance positions, which are all extremely foreign to me. But by the end of the hour, I was enjoying myself, being out of my comfort zone. The entire camp then goes to the performance of the night, which this time was a professional storyteller. The story is engaging and funny, but I find myself starting to become exhausted from the day’s activities. We have some free time for about an hour, so I meet up with my close friends, and we watched Netflix and talked and laughed for what seemed like forever.

I just described one of the 21 days I had at camp, which helps one realize that the Governor’s School of the Arts (GSA) was an indescribable experience. You are suddenly submerged in the arts with people who are intellectually stimulated by the same realm of enrichment.

My instructor in studio art was extremely qualified and created a healthy teaching environment. I learned countless new techniques and expressed myself in many new ways.

The community and camaraderie is extremely unexpected due to the fact that most students had known none of their peers when they arrived. But being with people from 8 a.m. to around 11 p.m. creates this truly unique dynamic and has enchanting properties. The friendships of three weeks felt — and still feel like — they had been in existence since the beginning of time and were timeless. Such a strong bond is created between the camp holistically.

The environment may have been intimidating at first, being around such talented peers, but in the end that element pushed me to challenge myself and grow intellectually, socially and in my craft. I can easily say that GSA altered my daily life because I now have a strong connection with kids from other schools around the state. I can happily say my friend group has had multiple meetups since the camp ended a month ago.

It’s almost a strange feeling trying to remember who I was before GSA. The person who opened the acceptance letter is not the same person writing this article today. For anyone thinking that this program would just be summer school, it is completely different and does not resemble that at all. An interest in what you are learning about makes all the difference. There is also a ton of time allotted for having fun alongside a plethora of activities.

It was nice for me to leave home, out of my comfortable environment, and meet new people and learn things about my art form. It has almost a sleep-away camp vibe but with so many opportunities. Like this year we went to Chicago and had discipline-oriented events such as getting to see amazing art for those of us that studied studio art. To parallel, for example, the dancers got to attend dance performances and master classes.

I have never been so tired as I was when I arrived home after the three weeks away filled with enriching events. But those tired days were nothing to give up for the amazing experience I had this summer. I sincerely recommend if you or someone you know (a rising junior) with skill in studio art, digital art, dance, acting, instrumental music, vocals or creative writing to take a look into the program. Talk to your guidance counselor between November and January in order not to miss the deadline.

For more information visit https://govschools.wv.gov/GSA/HowtoApply/Pages/default.aspx