Summer students reflect on sunny days on campus

Monika Sweeney/The Miscellany News.

The final weeks of a spring semester always pass by in a blur. One minute, you’re cramming for an Economics exam in the library and the next you’re physically cramming into the backseat of your mom’s minivan for a six-hour ride home, along with your seven suitcases, a sticky mini-fridge and far too many pairs of white sneakers. 

However, if you’re one of the 263 students who chose to remain on campus for at least some portion of the summer, your spring-to-summer transition looked a bit different. Instead of frantically hauling all your belongings down five flights of stairs the morning after your last exam (apparently a functioning elevator in living spaces isn’t covered by an $83,730 bill), summer students were slowly moving into summer housing assignments, basking in the silence of an empty campus and coming to terms with the fact that Late Night was no longer, at least until the fall, and that it would be at least 70 days until their next chicken nugget pouch from Retreat. 

Of the 263 students who remained on campus during the sweaty months of summer, devoid of air conditioning, access to health services and unlimited Deece swipes, 76 stayed for on-campus employment, with jobs ranging from mailroom clerk to grounds maintenance, 89 were Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (URSI), Beckman or Ford Scholars and 14 students were conducting independent studies. Many students who utilized on-campus housing during the summer worked with specific departments or programs, others were unable to return home due to travel restrictions and over a dozen remained after working events such as Reunion or Commencement. While some students thrived on an empty campus, using it as an opportunity to finally break out their rollerblades or sunbathe in peace, others were left feeling lonely and isolated from their peers.

For Olivia Gatto ’24, summer was challenging at times, but overall enjoyable. Gatto stayed on campus as an office assistant for Residential Life. She helped plan, advertise and coordinate events for students staying on campus over the summer, while serving as a resource to answer any housing-related questions. Gatto, who felt more homesick than she expected, sought out other activities to keep her busy, such as reading and painting. She also walked Lydia, the unofficial mascot of Main House, for a week. “I missed my pets and my family, so seeing the animals on campus helped me combat that,” she shared. Gatto further explained that having friends on campus was also crucial to staying positive during these past few months. “I needed them this summer, and I’m so glad they were there,” she noted. Despite feeling homesick and physically sick at times, the latter due to the infamous Vassar stomach bug, Gatto found the silver linings of her summer away from home, noting the open mic night in the Loeb sculpture garden as a highlight. “It was really rewarding to see people come together, and I had a great time,” she commented.

Similar to Gatto, Ayane Garrison ’24, turned to nature and quality time with friends to combat the loneliness that pervades a college campus during the summer months. “There were less people around in general, so the people I got to see were more limited,” they noted. Additionally, for the month of July, Garrison moved out of on-campus housing in Lathrop to house-sit for a professor. After I started house-sitting, I wasn’t running into people in the Deece or in Lath, so I had to go out of my way to make plans and spend time with my friends,” they shared. Garrison admitted that having friends on campus was a game-changer for their summer experience. 

Garrison remained at Vassar over the summer because they were selected to participate in an URSI project, titled Spiders v. Moths: Glue Mediates Interactions Between Predator and Prey. Their lab group focused on researching moth specialist spiders. “Most spiders struggle to catch moths since moths are covered in scales that they can drop and use to escape a web, but moth specialists have really unique glue and webs that allow them to overcome that defense,” they explained. 

As Garrison reflected on their summer experience, two distinct highlights came to mind: an unexpected perk of house-sitting and the freedom of exploring campus without a full course load. They grew especially fond of all the pets they cared for in their house-sitting gig, which included a bearded dragon, two cats and a couple of turtles. Additionally, without the stress of everyday homework or an active fencing season, they were thrilled to experience Vassar with more downtime. With friends, and time to appreciate a quiet campus, they developed a newfound appreciation for the plants and creatures that reside on our secluded grounds. They often spent afternoons eating lunch outside and reading, inviting friends over regularly and making frequent trips off-campus to explore the Hudson Valley. 

Kendall Hayes ’22 remained on campus through the end of July to work on the preserve, participating in Community-Engaged Learning (CEL) while also conducting an independent study with a professor in the Earth Science department. Compared to last summer, Hayes felt like there were less activities and opportunities for interacting with other students. “I think part of that was because [last summer] people were very active on the summer student Facebook group and posted lots of events and parties there,” she shared. Regardless, with a few friends nearby, a field trip to Connecticut and chatting with coworkers, Hayes found herself looking back fondly at her final Vassar experience. 

As yet another summer comes to an end, the campus slowly fills once again, replacing clusters of prospective students on tours and locals walking their dogs with returning students, overexcited first-years and recharged faculty members.

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