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Summer Research Program
laurel story

I first got my letter in the mail about two weeks after I had received my acceptance letter from RIT. It was a non-descript piece of white paper, just a simple letter. There was an ambiguous paragraph about a new program, a list of benefits, and a place where I could check ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to indicate my interest. That’s it. Nevertheless, the next day I waved the letter in all my friends’ faces, shouting, “Look what I can do!” And they didn’t believe it to be possible. How could a pre-frosh spend four weeks in college, getting paid to do research, living on campus and taking classes for free, and getting a feel for college life? I was along with the rest of my peers in wondering: what’s the catch?

But truth be told, there was no catch. And that is really what drew me to spend my last free summer 2800 miles away from my home. I could do research, gain that kind of valuable experience, and I could get paid to do it. Forget staying at home and working at some fast food restaurant, I could be doing something that would look great on a resume and gain some practical lab experience. It was a young scientist’s dream-come-true.

The first day here was a typical get-to-know-you affair. We all sat down to have lunch, and I was with six faces to which I couldn’t match names. We sat there, avoiding eye contact, not saying anything until I said “wow, this is awkward.” Twenty-Four hours later we went to the Red Barn for team building activities. Several hours, a hundred degrees, several gallons of water, and much bonding later, we might as well have known each other for years. The following day as our final orientation activity, we went white-water rafting which was amazing to say the least. We could get to know each other in a more relaxed setting. And let’s face it, white water rafting is awesome.

The education I received last summer was priceless. We had class twice a week, learning both in and outside the classroom, practical skills we would use in college. Doing research five days a week allowed for learning by doing, practical skills that are applicable to jobs in our individual fields.

The opportunity to do research in an actual lab was amazing. It wasn’t a professional giving us a kiddy project to work on while they went about their daily business. We were all there working with the professors on their current projects, funded by grants. Some have even had the opportunity to be listed as authors of these projects at national conferences and potentially even in peer-reviewed journals. As one of my peers put it, who ever would have thought the mentors would actually care about what we had to say?

I was able to meet a plethora of faculty and staff that have been most helpful since I’ve been here. Many of us have been able to continue our paid lab work into the school year. Through other connections and networking, I know professors in several departments and have been able to find other jobs that way as well.

And perhaps some of the greatest benefits were the more social aspects of the program. This experience was crucial to the college experience I’ve had so far. I was able to know the campus long before orientation started, and I felt comfortable in my surroundings. I had developed a core group of friends, and we all live with some proximity in the dorms.

It sounds horribly cliché, but this summer was the experience of a lifetime. I learned so much, in the classroom and in the lab, I created an amazing network both professionally and socially within RIT, and I got paid to do it. That initial doubt of whether or not I wanted to move so far away to be with people I didn’t know has been removed a thousand times over. I would recommend this experience to any incoming freshman because without it, RIT wouldn’t have been the same for me.