A LIFE-CHANGING SUMMER By Eleih Elle Etian Jr.
When I heard about Open Dreams, I thought it was a place dedicated to studies and nothing else. After going through the long and tedious application process, I had the chance to be accepted and become a pre-scholar. The academy started on a Saturday morning. That day, I abandoned my preconceptions about what I mistakenly called an organization, which, in fact, is a family. The tensed and serious atmosphere amongst us, pre-scholars, rapidly gave way to a relaxed and convivial one and sooner than we noticed, we started discussing and sharing our stories. This can be accounted for by the fact that the scholars introduced themselves as facilitators and not teachers. Also, they asked us not to use, "Sir" when calling them but to call them using their first names only.
Felicitas, Bekline, Likane, Ayuba, Mathias & Sandrine of the Scholar community all getting ready for the kick-off of the Open Dreams Summer Academy, #ODSA2020
On Monday, of the first week, we were introduced to the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test). This test is not based on the ability to memorize, to which we were used, in secondary school but rather on accuracy and ability to understand; it is like a mountain which you are to climb but you do not see the top. We took a test each week and with the help of the facilitators, we corrected our errors and eventually, our scores improved. Our class sessions were very interactive as everyone was given the opportunity to express himself no matter his age or background. In addition to this, the frequent debates and interviews we had permitted us to improve our public speaking and expression skills. Thus, expressions like,"I think"," I believe " and "I know" gradually faded from our vocabulary. We were thought about how to raise strong points and counteract the weak ones easily, while being civil and respectful of everyone. Throughout the summer academy, we met, either physically or via Skype, a lot of people from different countries and origins who shared their experiences with us and from whom we learnt a lot.
One key element of our training was the aspect of giving back to our communities. We learned how to offer our services to someone without expecting something in return. Our first experience of community service was at Ahala, a quarter in the suburbs of Yaounde. We had to pick bottles on a river using wood planks as a support in order not to sink into the strangely colored water, even though some of us still had a taste of it. Contrary to what I thought, it was a very funny experience and it strengthened our team spirit. However, my favourite extra-curricular activity was football. No matter the weather conditions, everyone, including the scholars, was willing to play. This gave rise to great encounters even though we are not professionals in the game. I cannot end my discussion about our extra-curricular activities during the 2019 summer Academy without talking about the talent shows we had during club activities. We show-cased a variety of talents including drawing, singing and dancing. The last 2 gave rise to a party-like atmosphere and one memorable moment was when we organised a freestyle dance battle during which everyone showed his best dance moves.
Being a pre-scholar has been a wonderful experience for me and as you can imagine saying goodbye to this new family was a difficult experience which we had to pass through on the last day. Tears were a common feature on everyone's face. The Idea of no more going to our favourite bakery- “le best”- which was used to sponsor our breaks increased the difficulty of thé task.
Eleih Elle Etian Jr. delivering an SAT lesson and facilitating discussions (August 2020)
Some advice I can give to the next pre-scholars are:
Always remember that your being at Open Dreams costs money to a group of people who do not know you but yet they are willing to invest in you.
The application process is not easy, thus you might sometimes doubt if you will succeed, but if you were selected amongst many others to become a pre-scholar, then you can and must succeed.
During your time at the summer, Academy put in your best in everything you do.
During this summer, I met: scholars who are loving and caring senior brothers and sisters willing to sacrifice their holidays to help us; pre-scholars whom I consider as my siblings with extraordinary stories. They are always ready to help and assist you even when they don’t know you. As the summer academy closes and we all part our ways, I want to thank them all without forgetting the founders, Cristina and Hans Kullberg and Blaise Buma, for all what they did and continue doing for us. It is due to all these that I refer to my time at the summer academy as a “life-changing summer” to which I am sad not to be able to apply to next year.
-Written in August 2019
Till September 4th 2020, visit www.open-dreams.org/students to apply to the 2020 Open Dreams Summer Academy