Dear Editor,

My first visit to West Virginia was a life-changing one. I say this because I recently returned home from a stay at the prestigious National Youth Science Camp, hosted by the National Youth Science Foundation.

Being the only California delegate, I arrived on a small plane late in the evening by myself, not having met any other delegates during my travels and not 100% sure that this whole “science camp” wasn’t just a rouse to get me away from my cell phone for an entire month. My fears were only slightly alleviated when I was warmly welcomed to Charleston and then spent the next day meeting my fellow delegates as we toured the innovative South Charleston Technology Park and was impressed by the research and cutting edge technologies in place there.

Finally making our way into the Monongahela National Forest to Camp Pocahontas inaugurated the second and most realized phase of the camp experience. At camp, life was simply complex, beautifully chaotic, intelligently silly, and always a surprise as we were kept in the dark about the vast majority of the events that were in store for us. The attitude of camp was one of “don’t worry ‘bout it” and “just go with it!” This was a significant challenge for those of us control freak nerds who would salivate over the schedules they released only the night before every day. Most days at camp we were kept very busy between guest lectures opening and closing our days, directed studies in areas of cutting edge technology, medicine, or outdoor activities, between games of ultimate frisbee, and the craziness that were our meal times. We were given every opportunity to try new things whether it was through listening to a lecture on a new medical procedure, participating in a directed study that took us to a cranberry bog or caving in the darkest cave in West Virginia. It was a big challenge to digest all the opportunities you had before you.

Ultimately though, this became one of the biggest assets of camp; learning how to just live in the moment of camp and enjoy what was around us. We didn’t really need our cell phones, we didn’t really need to be connected to everyone everywhere via Facebook at every second of the day. What was important in the moment was all we needed: our curiosities, our intellect, our friends, the wonders of West Virginia.

While staying in the history-saturated Camp Pocahontas, visiting in Charleston, and venturing all throughout the mountains of the Mountain State, I was immersed in the culture and beauty that is West Virginia. The people were kind, the scenery was breath-taking, and the experience was something I’ll be looking to repeat in my life, but that can only exist at the National Youth Science Camp in the hills of Pocahontas County. It was pleasure being able to enjoy the wonders that were NYSC 2011 and all that West Virginia offered.

Sincere thanks,

Alexis Wood , CA 2011