A ‘47 Dodge milk truck sitting on a ‘76 Chevy 4-wheel drive frame – that’s just one of the things I left behind to move to Colorado. My dad has owned the truck longer than I have been alive and we spent a lot of time this summer fixing it up; I did the paint job myself. So, as exciting as the prospect of Summit Semester was at 2 months out, as the weeks turned to days, I was nit-picking at every reason I could to stay home. I’ve never been away from my family for longer than two weeks, so the thought of moving so far from home for three months with 29 people I’d never met seemed less and less appealing. That mindset only lasted through the first day here. It was like seeing your cousins at a family reunion, even though it might have been years since you’ve last seen each other, you just click.
Having people that I can get close to and be comfortable with is somewhat of a foreign concept for me. My parents were missionaries overseas when I was born, and we did a lot of short-term mission trips as a family after we moved back to the States. We traveled often and homeschooled on the road. And as cliché as it sounds, my sister was my closest friend. I’m not saying I never had other friends, just that I’ve had a hard time meeting new people and feeling comfortable around them. That was not the case when I got to Snow Wolf Lodge. Within the week, we were a family.
At Summit we do everything as a family, which I greatly appreciate. We start our mornings with devotions sitting around big tables. Since I’m not a “morning person,” it’s a personal challenge to see how late I can sleep before I have to get up to get ready and be presentable at breakfast. Not a grand goal, but a challenge nonetheless. Lunch and dinner are also family-style meals and all the meals are followed by dish-pit. All 29 of us are divided into five dish-pit teams that take turns after meals to wash the dishes, reset the dining room, and clean up the kitchen. The dish-pit teams are in constant competition to see who can finish the tasks the quickest and most efficiently.
Besides the classes, one of my favorite activities at Summit is all the trips we get to take around the area. Usually spending three hours in a van with nine other people would be what some might consider a bad idea, but we always make the best of it. In fact, we spend a lot of the time texting and sending pictures to the people in the other vans. We joke that we’ve become co-dependent and can’t live without each other. But we do take the time to look at the scenery and pull the vans over so good pictures can be taken by all!
We watched a movie (a common Sunday night activity) called Gimme Shelter where the main character moves into a house for pregnant teenage mothers. At the end, when she has an opportunity to go live with her father or stay with her makeshift family at the shelter, she says, “The people there, they make you feel like a family. Like you’re loved…it’s crazy how you can go and live with strangers and feel so much joy and not feel different and not feel unwanted and feel you can go places in your life and succeed in life.” This is an excellent description of Semester. The people here have helped me so much – coming out of my shell, trusting people, building friendships. To sum it up: I think that they’re pretty fantastic.
I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been here: practical book smarts, how to defend my faith, why I believe what I believe, how to be a good reader, how to ask questions, how to think, and much more. But what I’m learning the most is how to be a friend. I’ve learned to enjoy the company of others. We go on hikes through the gorgeous Colorado Mountains, spend afternoons between sports time where there is usually a ‘friendly’ game of volleyball (we’re all rather competitive). We participate in work crews where we learn practical skills like sanding and staining decks. We clean the Lodge and clean and cook in the kitchen. We’re a family, no matter what we’re doing. And I wouldn’t trade this for the world.
Aden Parsons brings the experience of a world traveler to this year’s Summit Semester class. At this point, she has had the opportunity to visit Europe and South America, in addition to road trips in the States. After Semester, Aden is planning on attending Rivendell Sanctuary. Whatever else the future may hold for her, traveling and learning from new experiences will be a part of it. While here at Semester, Aden is looking forward to growing in her faith and from there continuing to share His love and grace to those around her. Should you catch Aden with a bit of free time on her hands, you’ll probably find her jamming on her ukulele, enjoying the outdoors, or perhaps up late reading that “one last chapter” of a great book.