It’s Friday and the usually busy campus of American University is relatively quiet aside from the occasional laughter, singing of the birds, and the mating calls of the cicadas. People appear in spurts: some on campus tours and others are taking summer classes. The overall mood is calm although temperatures are in the high 90s.
The stifling heat encompasses the gardeners, making their job more difficult. For Kenny Sui, a summer intern with facility management, the gardening is fun “because of the hands on experience.” For Sui, a typical day consists of weeding, occasionally planting, and figuring out how to be environmentally friendly. Instead of living in the dorms like a student would during the school year, Sui makes the 27-mile commute from Gaithersburg, Md each day.
Juan Reyes, another gardener, got involved with the university because of its beautiful campus that had something he “always wanted to be a part of.” His mother had worked for American University for 20 years so it was in his blood. Like Sui, Reyes is in charge of weeding and watering the grounds. Reyes commutes as well.
While American University is usually home to 6,241 undergraduate students, 3,507 graduate students, and 646 faculty members, the majority of these students go home from May to August. The people here during the summer are the rare exceptions: those truly in love with school and the American University atmosphere. During these long summer months, most are living in the dorms on campus.
American University students are also sticking around for the summer. Lacrosse player Lisa Shaaf has been giving tours to prospective lacrosse team members all summer along with fellow team member Bailey McDonough. On Friday, 16-year-old Lauren Wilcox from Philadelphia, Pa. had her first visit to the campus. She met with the lacrosse team coach and enjoyed looking around.
Aside from giving tours, students can stay on campus working for housing and dining like junior Merielle Donaldson. Donaldson has lived on campus for two summers working for the university. Her work entails being both a desk receptionist and a resident adviser for students participating in summer programs on campus.
Other students are here for their orientation where they will learn about everything that a student at AU needs to know. Bryn Keane-Farrell is an incoming freshman at American in the fall. At 18-years-old, she is among the youngest AU students on campus this summer. Having arrived on Wednesday, Keane-Farrell has been learning about “all the odds and ends.” Having met a lot of people thus far she believes that the overall experience is entirely necessary and positive.
College students are not the only ones who are spending their summer at A.U. Some of the high school programs on campus include the National Student Leadership Conference, the Community of Scholars program, Discover the World of Communication and Summer Sports Camps. These programs give high school students the opportunity to have a taste of college life on campus, though the usual crowd of people in the quad is significantly less dense.
Without the hustle and bustle that will return come fall, the campus may seem empty or obsolete. What the outside observer does not know however, is just how many people are working behind the scenes, giving up their summers in order to keep the campus running. While the number of students in the summer is significantly lower than in the fall, the experience is one that these students will never forget.