It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here, but I feel like I’ve got some pretty good excuses. After finally recovering from Strep throat a few weeks ago, it was crunch time at the REU. We had to compile all of the information and projects we had been working on the entire summer into a single paper. It took us a few days, and several revisions before we got it to a point where we could submit it. We also had to come up with a final presentation, scheduled for Thursday, that was around 40 minutes. Luckily, we were able to split this up pretty well, and it wasn’t too hard. The presentation went very well despite us not actually practicing the entire thing together beforehand. Thursday night, everyone in the program went downtown together to American Dream pizza. It was a very fitting end, as it was the same place we had all gone the first night we were in Corvallis eight weeks before.
After turning in our paper, and having lunch with one of the program advisers, Leanne and I hit the road for the East coast. That first afternoon, we drove about 5 hours through the middle of the Cascades in Oregon. It was some of the prettiest countryside I have ever driven through. We stayed in Burns, Oregon for the night, then headed through Idaho and part of Utah the next day. That night, we took a quick trip out to the Great Salt Lake, where the picture above was taken. Specifically, it was a place called Antelope Island, though we didn’t see any antelope while we were there. Sunday was spent mostly driving through Wyoming, where we took a brief excursion along a pretty dirt road and saw some wild horses. The next three days of driving were mostly uneventful. Wednesday night, we ended up in Blacksburg, which can only mean that we went Salsa dancing. It was nice to be back in the familiar stomping grounds and see some people that I hadn’t seen in a few months. And after the previous week, the four hour trip home on Thursday barely felt like anything.
Overall, I’d have to say that this was the best summer I’ve ever had by far. I got to spend the first month of it basically goofing off at home, which was a really nice change from the past few summers where I’ve had to start right into my internships as soon as I got home from school. This gave me the time I needed to kinda decompress from the previous semester, which was pretty stressful in the last few weeks.
I’ve written a good deal already about the trip West. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. I got to see a lot of the country that I had never seen before. I also had the chance to revisit some of the places that I had seen as a kid, but had not been mature enough to fully appreciate. I was bummed that I didn’t get to make it up to Glacier, but the trip through Mount Rainier was a pretty good substitute. I guess I’ll just have to make another trip some day to get to Glacier.
The REU program was all that I had wanted it to be, and then some. One of my major reasons for choosing this program over the one with the NSA was to get a better feel of whether or not I really wanted to go to grad school for math. My research project last spring really sparked my interest in doing math research, and the experience this summer just fanned the flames higher. At this point, I feel like the question has changed from “do I want to go to grad school?” to “where do I want to go to grad school?” I also had the chance to work on a team for a good part of the project this summer, which was completely different from last spring.
I also had the chance, on the weekends, to explore a lot of the area around Corvallis. I took trips west to the coast, north to Portland, and south-east to Crater Lake. While I did do some work on the weekends, it was nice not to be shackled by the amount of work I generally have during the school year. All of these places were great, and I hope I get the chance to make it back to them all some day.
All of the people involved in the program were amazing. The advisers were all incredibly supportive and helpful with our projects. The other students in the REU were all great, and it was nice to get to know so many people from different places and with fairly different backgrounds. We ended up doing a lot of things together as a group, from going to meals, playing games, or going to events like concerts.
I also had something very unexpected happen to me this summer. I fell in love, really for the first time in my life, with a beautiful girl named Leanne. This was definitely not something that I had put on my list of things to do while I was in Oregon this summer. We ended up hanging out a lot and going dancing a few times at the beginning of the summer, and things just grew from there. While I may have done some of the same trips on my own this summer, I’ve discovered that having someone there to share them with makes them even more meaningful. And even though the drive back was rushed, without the time to really stop and see the sights, I’d say it was just as good, if not even better than my trip west alone. Even in such a short time as the eight weeks we had in Oregon, we grew extraordinarily close, and being trapped together in the car for eight or nine hours a day on the way back just made that connection even stronger. Now sure, I have had crushes on girls in the past, but I have never felt this strongly about anyone before, and it’s an incredible feeling. Taking her to the airport in Raleigh on Friday and watching her walk away was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but what we have together means enough to both of us that we want to keep it going despite the distance. It’ll be hard, I know, but will be worth it, without a doubt.
I should really get to bed at this point, the first day of classes is tomorrow.