The month we have spent together at camp is the first time I have been surrounded by a group of people like myself – a group of scientists. I was pleasantly surprised to find people who were authentic and creative, others who were artistic and musical, and more that were engaged and dedicated. I was comforted to find delegates and successful lecturers who embraced my idea of religion despite the mainstream notion that mathematicians and scientists should not believe in something that by nature is not completely logical. At this camp, for the first time in our lives, we lived with the type of intellectuals that will accompany us for much of the rest of our careers. We met the type of people who will collaborate to develop treatments for the world’s harshest diseases, find solutions to our climate disaster, invent the latest technology, and determine what the meaning of P-adic numbers truly is. In short, the NYSC has woven each delegate into a network, much like that of spider’s silk (thank you Nicole), Origami fractal balls, and the Google search engine.

This is also a network of weird, off-beat eccentric people – including myself. Before coming to camp, I had never heard of mafia or psychiatrist (thank you Rishabh for the best game in history) or the National Youth Nudist Camp as a matter of fact. Manscaping and disemboweled were added to my vocabulary. And, to be entirely honest, I was a bit concerned after arriving at camp. For those of you who may not grasp what I am getting at … (cough) excuse me, I was sick a week ago and I keep repeatedly losing my voice because I cannot seem to keep my mouth shut. But yes, I have a question. Do you believe in fairies? (chant) One of my first nights at camp…I had the pleasure of experiencing this…at which point two grown men walked out in fairy dresses and wings with a birthday cake. I was a bit hesitant…of course, by now I have professed my belief in Fairies and thus been formally inducted into the network of people that comprise the National Youth Science Foundation.

Last night at our cabin meeting, the topic was our favorite experience from camp. I realized that one of the most memorable experiences has been the individual conversations I have had with people from all over the U.S. and the world. Most delegates would say that they have enjoyed learning from the delegates from Chile, Germany, Argentina, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Conversing with others has surely been an important part of camp, but upon reflection I would have shared something different at the cabin meeting. Something funky happened in our brains since we first set foot on the Monongahela Forest dirt. I hope I am not mistaken to say that we have a unique learning experience ranging from “difficult learning” to the more difficult learning of Salsa, juggling, chess, rock climbing, biking, and hiking. The cabin funk has entered the brains of each of us and I believe it will fuel the way we learn for the rest of our lives.

I have an excerpt from a reflection I wrote the first time I identified that it was the cabin funk that was affecting my reasoning.

July 11, 2010

The most beautiful orange butterfly is teasing me right now. I am sitting under a sweet umbrella of shade in the lower recreation field thinking of the lecturers who have somehow impacted my life – despite the fact that they do not really know me nor have I impacted their lives in any way. I believe this butterfly is dancing with me…I only wish I could dance with her. What an odd state of intraspection that this camp can impose on you. A busy network of ants works beneath me, and sometimes on me. Why is it that chance leads me to see the same ant carrying a piece of food and every time I look up from this page? God surely is wonderful.

Simone Dixon, North Carolina – 2010 NYSC