The Summer Before College

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Dylan Park at his senior prom.

The beginning of college marks a major shift in life for most of us, ushering in greater independence and freedom. While exciting, this shift also can bring stress. Gone are the days of care-free living with no need for employment and parental prepared meals. Gone are the comforts of living in the place you’ve been your whole life. For local seniors, this shift is coming ever closer, along with some appreciation for the unique neighborhood where they spent their childhoods.

Seniors “Heart” Capitol Hill

“I really liked how close everything was, you could always walk to where you wanted to go in 15-20 minutes and a bike ride would halve that time,” said Max Zeidler, a School Without Walls High School (SWW) senior who plans to attend Loyola Marymount University (CA) in the fall. This proximity helped to create a close community among Capitol Hill kids. “Being close to the Capitol and the National Mall was awesome, especially going there with friends and walking around at night,” he said.

Ishan Hsu playing guitar at a school music performance. Photo: Rami Noursi.

Stephen Showalter, who also goes to School Without Walls and will be attending the University of Pittsburgh (PA) in the fall, said that the community Capitol Hill fosters has been “the most beneficial part” of his life. Mia Davidson, who will be graduating Edmund Burke High School and plans on attending Syracuse University (NY) this fall, agreed saying that her “favorite thing about living on Capitol Hill is the community. Everybody is somehow connected and that is a special thing.” 

Travel

Many seniors are taking this summer to travel before heading off to college. Dylan Park, a Washington Latin senior going to Pomona College (CA) in the fall, is traveling to Korea. The trip is result of a scholarship offered by the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y). Run by the US Department of State, the initiative offers language immersion programs in several different countries. Park choose NSLI-Y to “learn my native language and experience living in the country where my family came from.”

SWW Senior Ishan Hsu, who plans on attending McGill University (CAN) in the fall, is also focused on summer travel.

“I’m going to California for a sleep away camp, on a climbing trip with my friends to the New River Gorge in West Virginia and to Edinburgh for my uncle’s birthday,” Hsu said. “This summer will be my last summer with my friends before I go to college and since I have already committed [to McGill], I don’t have anything to worry about so I’m trying to fill my summer with fun activities.”

Stephen Showalter (left) and Max Zeidler (right) at their school. Photo: Theo Weller.

Max Zeidler is headed off to Iceland with his dad. Then he plans to spend two weeks in Europe with fellow SWW seniors. “I wanted to get out of DC and create some long-lasting memories before I really become an adult and go to college. That’s why I decided to spend so much time traveling,” said Zeidler. “I’ve also worked since October so I have some money saved up.”

For teens like Zeidler, traveling feels like the perfect way to enjoy the last months of pre-adulthood.

Work

“This summer I will be traveling with friends and family and working at Calleva,” Mia Davidson said. “I have worked at Calleva the past few summers and I’ve loved it so I keep going back.” Calleva is an outdoor education organization in Maryland that hosts summer camps for kids ages four to 16.

Teens who are choosing to work this summer commonly plan to work as waiters or in food in some other way, like at an ice cream shop. Most of them seem to be working on their own accord, wanting to get ahead on the increase in spending in college.

“This summer, I’ll be working at Aqua 301 in Navy Yard. I’m trying to earn some spending money for college and save up to buy a car,” said Jackson-Reed High School Senior Tommy Johnson. Johnson plans to attend Auburn University (AL) in the fall.

Part of this summer, SWW Senior Showalter will return to the NOMA restaurant Laos in Town, where he has worked previously as a waiter. For the remainder, he plans to be a summer camp counselor.

Showalter is trying to make “as much money as possible” this summer, citing the high price of college tuition as his reason. Despite his focus on work, Showalter is still spending a week in Spain with his friends.

“I’m really looking forward to that…it’s just going to be such a blast,” said Showalter.

Leaving Home

“I’m pretty sad to move away from DC and Capitol Hill,” said Zeidler, “I think a lot of people want to get away from where they grow up but over the last few months, I’ve realized how lucky I am in DC and how much I take for granted.”

Hill seniors aren’t just sad to leave DC, but also apprehensive about dealing with the stress of navigating a new city.

Davidson, however, isn’t too worried. “It is sad to think about the fact that I won’t be on Capitol Hill or in DC all the time anymore,” she said. “But the fact that my family will still be here makes it feel like I’m not actually moving away and that allows me to be more excited than sad about going to college. It is comforting to know that even though I’m going to be in college somewhere else, I always will be able to come back here.”

Davidson’s sentiments are widely shared by her peers.

“I feel sad about moving out of Capitol Hill, but I will be back for the summer and for holidays so it’s not all bad,” said Hsu.

Overall, Capitol Hill’s seniors feel some sadness about leaving Capitol Hill and the fond memories they had growing up on it behind. But they are definitely excited for the new experiences that lie ahead. Perhaps Park put it best, “Change is sad but necessary for growth, so I’m looking forward to embracing it.”