Early in my junior year in high school, each student in my first block class received an off-pink piece of paper describing something I had never heard of before: Governor’s Schools sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Education. From the small excerpt at the top of the page it described Governor’s School as a month-long program in the summer. Students who attended would essentially attend earn college and receive college credit before even graduating high school. On the paper was a chart with broad subjects on the left, like Physics, Engineering, Prospective Teachers, along with a few others. One of these subjects caught my eye. Humanities was listed between Engineering and Information Technology Leadership. I knew that I enjoyed English and that I was almost certain I was going to major in it once I went to college. I’m glad I stayed with it, too!
Of course, I was very new to the idea of what a Governor’s School was, but I, being the huge nerd that I am, decided to take a look. As soon as I was able to, I went to the website on that piece of paper. I was starting to possibly consider applying if I could afford it. The school I wanted to apply to, Humanities, was located at the University of Tennessee at Martin located in the tiny town of Martin, Tennessee, about a six hour drive from my house according to Google Maps. I was afraid that it was going to cost way more than I could ever imagine paying. A whole month at a college so far away would certainly cost something big. However, once I looked at the application file for all the schools, I quickly learned that if I were to be accepted, I would not have to pay a dime. Everyone who gets accepted into a Governor’s School receives a full scholarship, except for the Governor’s School for the Fine Arts where a small activities fee is required. The only thing I would have to pay for if I were to be accepted would be transportation and any other fees associated with travel. I read the application front and back at least a dozen times to make sure I read it right! I couldn’t believe that I could go to college for a month before I was even a senior in high school and learn about the things I could not ever get enough of. I knew right then that I would have to apply.
The application process was not terribly long, but I spent months reading over my application to make sure that it was perfect. For the Governor’s School for the Humanities (also known as GSH), two writing samples of different genres were required, along with two teacher recommendations (for the Humanities school, applicants were required to have one from an English teacher and then the other recommendation from another teacher in a humanities subject), an official transcript, and a one page resume. I had every teacher I could persuade read over and critique my writing samples. I even asked math and science teachers to look them over!
I first learned about Governor’s Schools in early November. I submitted my application in early December. I would not find out whether or not I was accepted until the middle of February. I can normally be a pretty patient person, but when it came to this I was not! As soon as February 1st came around, a whole two weeks early before acceptance letters were to be sent out, I started checking the mailbox religiously. Every day I would walk from the bus stop to my house, hoping that I would open the mailbox and find a letter from the University of
Tennessee at Martin. The closer the middle of the month came, my walking to the mailbox became a brisk walk, then a straight up run. Well, as far of a run someone can get while carrying a full backpack! The day I finally received a letter, I immediately ran to my front door and tried to get my key into the lock, but doing so proved to be impossible due to my excited shaking. I dropped my backpack and all the textbooks I was carrying and almost ripped the letter in half trying to get it open. The second I saw the word “Congratulations!” I began to walk around our front yard like Bender at the end of “The Breakfast Club,” much to the amusement of some of our neighbors. The letter mentioned that out of 380 applicants only 72 had been admitted. I couldn’t believe I had gotten in!
On June 2nd, 2012, my mother, uncle, and I packed up the car and began the six hour l
ong journey to Martin, Tennessee. The program would begin on June 3rd and conclude on the 30th. It was hard to imagine being so far away from home while not staying with family. Compared to being far away and not seeing any family for a while, living here at LMU was not that big of a deal. I had experienced a little homesickness for a day or two, but once I started hanging out with my new friends it quickly went away.
GSH was the best experience of my life! The first day, I already made so many friends who loved reading, writing, and English in general, that I almost automatically felt at home. Instead of the really uncomfortable and introvert-unfriendly introductions that include speaking in front of a lot of people, there was a system in place in which each person would get to talk to everyone else one at a time for thirty seconds. On a projector screen, a question along the lines of “What is your favorite subject in school?,” “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and even “Do you think snakes are cool?” It was an innovative way for me to meet so many people at once without feeling overwhelmed!
Classes began the next day. As I said before, each person took two classes for six hours total of college credit and one non-credit seminar. I chose to take English 110 and Religious Studies 210 with a Yearbook seminar. In English, we wrote one essay per week for four weeks which usually had some deep philosophical prompt to it. I underestimated how much it would challenge me! In Religious Studies, each week we would focus on one of the four main religions of the world, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism. We read religious texts from each and would spend class time discussing them. We had a ten page research paper due our last day of class on a subject of our choosing. I learned so much in one month- I could not wait to be able to do it again, only for four years instead of four weeks! Both of these classes certainly influenced me in my decision to which college I would go to and what I would major in.
Having small classes at GSH compared to the bigger classes I had in high school made me realize that I learn better in a learning environment with fewer students. I also learned that I absolutely love learning about philosophy, religion, and literature. The homework at GSH was difficult, but very worthwhile. Because of GSH I was certain in my decision to attend LMU, become an English major, and I am currently thinking about double majoring English with Philosophy and Religion.
As usual, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave a comment on my blog or email me. If you are interested in learning about UT Martin’s Governor’s School for the Humanities or any of the other Governor’s Schools that are available, you can look here at their website!