The first time I set foot onto Dandelion’s campus, I was amazed. The pervasive energy, after 26 hours in airplanes and airports, was refreshing. Going into the summer, I didn’t really know what to expect but at that moment, I just felt that it was going to be special. Suitcase in tow, I followed Michelle, other DukeEngagers and a handful of Dandelion students into the school.
Fast forward 11 weeks: Where did all the time go?
To start off from the last blog post: summer camp. Tougher than the semester. Over the ten days, there was little sleep and little eating; when I wasn’t in meetings about the curriculum or class lesson planning, I was checking in on the students’ dorms and classroom. Where semester morning runs had me running behind my class in beat with their orderly footsteps, I spent summer camp laps constantly weaving around my students in attempts to sync their movements. As the head banzhuren, I now helped teach class monitor, food deliverer and sanitation representative duties to students who would, in a year’s time, impress next summer’s DukeEngage fubanzhuren with their efficiency. It was strange to think about. Summer camp was a complete shift from what I’d been used to.
The summer as a whole though? It’s been everything all at once. Joy, happiness, reluctance, sadness, eagerness, frustration…an endless list of feelings. And I couldn’t be more thankful to Dandelion for it all and for teaching me so much. The students, the teachers, the campus, the mission/goals, the daily routines… everything has combined for unforgettable memories.
I don’t know when the next time I come back will be, but I do know that I will be back. Dandelion is going to look different then, especially with its new campus and new faces, and the thought is terrifying to me. That I won’t recognize a lot of what characterized my time there. That a lot of what I loved will be gone. But change and uncertainty is necessary. I’ll be different and so will my students, many of who will have already transferred to hometown schools and left by the time I visit again.
Right before I left the campus, I took a lot of pictures, hoping in some way that the memories I made here would be forever encapsulated into my phone’s camera roll. But, like how I felt when I arrived, nothing can adequately communicate what it’s like to be at Dandelion other than actually being at Dandelion. That’s what’s special about Dandelion.