By Sarah Vander Schaaff

I hope you’ll add your own memories or comment to this post I did last year about the summers that shaped us….


As a kid, there was always something wonderful about summer and having nothing to do except finding a friend and some ice cream, or a new bike route to a crowded pool. And was I the only one who considered “The Price is Right” a good break from the heat outside?

But when it comes to memories of formative experiences, television, as you might expect, does not make the cut. Instead, for many of us, it was the times that we headed to places far away, where we sometimes felt alone, that we look back on as significant moments in our lives. Below are a few of those stories:


HOW YOU SPEND YOUR DAYS NOW: (i.e. profession, parental responsibility, hobbies–whatever description you want to use): working, raising kids, tennis


SUMMER EXPERIENCE THAT SHAPED YOU: 1998, my junior year in high school, I spent a summer in France including a three week home stay with a family in Aix en Provence. I had a relatively sheltered childhood up until then, spending summers at sleep away camps with affluent kids in the Poconos. I lived with a family of a teenage boy Stephane, his 10-year-old brother and another exchange student from Germany. In many ways it was bizarre, as Stephane clearly had no interest in either of us exchange students, he just wanted to play football with his buddies every day. I was pretty much on my own living with a strange family in a strange county with the speaking equivalency of a first grader. I remember not having anyone to ask when I saw my first bidet, watching Die Hard dubbed in French and trying desperately to learn and have fun while feeling totally alone. It was the first time I realized quite how big the world was and how much I had to learn. Frightening and exciting all at once.


HOW YOU SPEND YOUR DAYS NOW: (i.e.. profession, parental responsibility, hobbies–whatever description you want to use) I am a stay-at-home mom. I work from home for Mindprint.


One summer, my sister and I left our friends and went to a random summer camp that my mother learned about through an ad in the paper. We were surprised (and unhappy) to learn that it was a more of a rustic camp than we were used to. It took a while for me to adjust, but by the end of the summer I made friends and learned to “rough it” a little.


HOW YOU SPEND YOUR DAYS NOW: I am raising two school-aged girls and I write two blogs.

WHERE YOU GREW UP: Austin, Texas

SUMMER EXPERIENCE THAT SHAPED YOU: 1991, the summer before my senior year of high school, I left Austin and headed to Evanston, IL for a summer program in theatre at Northwestern University. It was the first time I had been that far away from home and the first time I’d been with so many kids from other states. I was excited to meet people who loved theatre as much as I did. Every night a group would gather around a piano and play songs from Miss Saigon and Les Mis.

I wrote letters home to my parents on teal and peach stationery and remember waiting to use the telephone in the dorm hallway. We had a rigorous schedule, every hour filled, even after dinner, with classes and rehearsal or trips to see plays. At times I was terrified and remember feeling like an outsider. It seemed like the kids from the east or west coasts were much more savvy. But I made friends. Although we didn’t know it then, some of those friends would be freshmen with me the following year at Northwestern. And many are still my friends today.

We were treated like budding adults-with restrictions, curfews, and guidance, but given a lot of respect. It was a transformative summer and similar in ways to one I spent traveling by myself (somewhat unintentionally) in Europe a few years later. I was homesick and sometimes unhappy and remember being honestly intimidated and scared. But at the same time, I was aware that I was exactly where I wanted to be.

We would love to hear from you. Tell us about a summer that shaped your life.


Thank you for reading. Have time to leave a comment? 

Forward to a friend, follow us on Twitter or Facebook or Subscribe on email.

We’re happy to have you with us.



Comments (0)

  1. Reply

    It’s interesting that when I asked around, most of us remembered summers from high school or our older childhood years. Anyone have earlier memories?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.