By Josh Raymer
When Nathaniel Brantley packed his bags and readied himself for the 1,031 mile journey from Fort Collins, Colorado, to Bowling Green for VAMPY, he did so with the intention of returning to a family that welcomed him with open arms two years ago. “It’s a community, not just a learning experience,” he explained. “The classes are great; you get to do activities outside of class, and spend time with your friends.”
Nathaniel is the farthest domestic traveler for VAMPY 2015. After settling in and reconnecting with old friends on Sunday, Nathaniel attended his first day of class Monday. He’s taking Arabic this year partly because he’s fascinated by other languages and has previously studied Japanese, French, German, and Korean. But learning the language is only part of the reason Nathaniel chose the class.
“I’m here for the cultural aspect because I’ve always been very interested in the culture of the Middle East and I wanted to learn more about it,” he asserted.
While Nathaniel’s trip to Bowling Green might have seemed long, it was relatively short when compared to the arduous journeys undertaken by Muzna Jaafari and Joshua Shou. Muzna, who traveled from Jeddah in the Makkah Province of Saudi Arabia, endured a 7,073 mile trip that stretched over 26 hours and four stops – Turkey, New York, Charlotte, and Nashville. She admitted that the jet lag was hard to deal with and it took some time to adjust, but she said VAMPY is definitely worth the trip.
“You meet new people, and it’s a different country, so you learn different things,” she said. “Last year I took math at VAMPY and it helped me skip a grade in math.” This year Muzna is taking Astronomy because she didn’t know much about space and, like many students, she’s using VAMPY to stretch herself academically.
Joshua takes the crown for traveling the farthest distance to VAMPY – 7,398 miles from Shanghai to Bowling Green, including a 14-hour flight. He arrived a week early and stayed with his mother in Ohio in order to adjust to the new time zone and acquire the supplies he’d need for camp. Joshua said he was willing to travel such a great distance after his outstanding VAMPY experience in 2014.
“After I went one year, I realized I wanted to come again,” he said. “After talking with my parents, we decided I would come back. It’s a good way to enjoy the summer.”
Joshua is taking Computer Science this summer. It was a class he picked with an eye toward the future: “When I grow up, I think I want to be involved with business or statistics. I looked through the classes at first to see if economics was offered. Since my mom was a computer engineer, she wanted to see if I would enjoy computer science.” Joshua is also looking forward to the dance and various optionals, such as dodgeball.
Joshua had some words of wisdom for any student who is interested in attending VAMPY but lives far away. “It’s a good way to hang out with other kids and learn in the process,” he said. “If you want to really enjoy VAMPY, you should try to participate in as much as you can.”
Nathaniel echoed his sentiments. “Any time you do something new, you’re going to gain something from it, and VAMPY has a lot to offer,” he said. “You’re going to experience something you’ve never experienced before.”