It’s Not Just a Summer Job, for Some It’s an Adventure


Some college students spend their summers working in shopping malls or in search of the ultimate tan.

Not Charlotte Andersen, who will supervise an archeological dig in Portugal. Or Ari Kaplan, who has a job keeping statistics for the Baltimore Orioles. Or Gayani DeSilva, who plans to study elephantiasis in Sri Lanka.

All are among an intrepid corps of San Gabriel Valley college students out to put their own spin on “How I spent my summer vacation.”

“When students take responsibility for their own education, anything is possible,” said Tom Manley, director of External Studies at Pitzer College in Claremont.


Andersen, 23, a graduating senior at Pomona College, will spend 12 weeks living in the small farming town of Mertola in southeast Portugal. She will supervise excavation of a medieval Islamic site, called Alcaria Longa, believed to have been a pottery-making region between 950 and 1200, when Spain and Portugal were under Muslim rule.

Andersen, who will receive a $2,000 stipend from the National Science Foundation, says the most exciting part of the trip will be “living in and learning a primitive culture.”

“The classroom instruction can be so dry,” she said. “This is the real thing.”

While Andersen is studying pottery in a medieval town, Kaplan, of Caltech, will spend his summer in the ballpark studying earned-run averages for the Baltimore Orioles.

Kaplan, a sophomore engineering major, will work in the Orioles’ statistical department. A left fielder for the Caltech varsity team, Kaplan, 20, says he is the envy of his friends.

“I have never done anything like this before,” he said. “I’ll be able to see baseball from the inside and hopefully meet all the players.”

Kaplan says he wants to work for either the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or a professional baseball team after graduation. His summer job is an outgrowth of a research project--which explored new methods of calculating pitching statistics--that he completed last year for Caltech’s Summer Undergraduate Research Scholarship program.

Originally from New Jersey, Kaplan says the New York Mets are still his favorite team, but “that might change after the summer.”

Combining a family vacation with research, DeSilva will go back to her native country, Sri Lanka, to work as a volunteer with the nation’s Department of Public Health.

She will study the spread of disease through mosquitoes, particularly the spread of elephantiasis, a chronic disease common to the area. Elephantiasis is characterized by the enlargement of certain parts of the body, especially the legs and the genitals.

DeSilva, a junior majoring in biology at Scripps College in Claremont, plans to enroll in medical school and says this research will give her an edge on other students. She says she has come a long way since she worked at a muffin store in an Orange County shopping mall during the summer before college.

“Doing research gives me confidence with my own intellectual capabilities, and it helps you integrate what you learn in class with real life,” DeSilva said.

Leslie Bailey, 19, of Claremont McKenna College, will work in the library of the Arizona State Prison Complex, helping inmates better understand the law and the workings of the justice system. The job is not paid, but she will receive a $2,500 community service grant from the James Irvine Foundation.

“It’s basically going to be me and a lot of law books in a small room inside the prison complex,” Bailey said. “I am very interested in prison reform and finding ways to decrease the rate of violent crimes. And in order to understand the whole process better, I need hands-on experience inside a prison.”

Bailey also believes out-of-the-ordinary activities help keep her “lively.”

“If you don’t step out of the bounds once in a while, your paths will become too narrow,” she said. “I don’t want to just graduate, get a job in some company and stay there for the rest of my life. . . . I have to feel like I’ve made a difference.”

Bailey, a junior philosophy major, says she is too excited to be nervous, even though during her visit to the maximum security prison the warden asked her to sign an agreement that she would not ask for special treatment in case she was taken hostage.

“I’m a petite blonde girl who is not used to working in this environment, but I have a real good feeling about this,” Bailey said.

Another Claremont McKenna student, Kurt Freeman, 20, will work as a camp counselor in an American military base in Japan.

Freeman, a psychology major, said getting the chance to work with children at the Negeshi Heights military base, near Tokyo, is the best part of the program; getting to go to Japan isn’t bad either.

“The only negative thing is that I’m going to miss my brother’s wedding, but this is too great an opportunity to miss,” Freeman said.

Rachel Devine of Pitzer College will spend her summer living with a family in Iceland while she works on a photo essay and an anthropology research paper.

Devine, an art/anthropology major, said she has always been interested in the culture and people of Iceland, but when she went to her school’s office of external studies, she found there were no study-abroad programs in Iceland. So she created her own program through the University of Iceland.

For her anthropology project, she will research state-run day-care centers and the plight of single mothers. And for her art project, she will assemble photos documenting the lives of Icelandic painters, musicians and poets.

“This, in a way, will be an extension of school, but much more fun,” Devine, 19, said.

Other college students plan to work together this summer.

Twelve Cal Poly Pomona students are preparing to enter a solar car in the 1,800-mile Sunrayce USA, a 10-day Florida-to-Michigan road race in which they’ll compete against 31 other colleges.

First- and second-place winners in the July race, sponsored by General Motors, will be sent to Australia at GM’s expense to compete in the 1990 World Solar Challenge.

“We’re putting the final touches on the car and doing the final testing,” said Jon Harvey, student director for the project.

Shaped like a teardrop, the “Solar Flair” is 20 feet long and weighs about 500 pounds, almost 1,500 pounds lighter than a regular car.

“Working on this project has provided unbelievable training,” said Harvey, who is working on his master’s degree in mechanical engineering.

Another group of students, from Pitzer College, plans to travel through Laundromats and lesbian bars in the Pomona area, researching AIDS among minority women and passing out information about the disease.

They selected Laundromats because they expect to encounter lots of working class women there; lesbian bars were chosen because they believe lesbians, many of whom are bisexual, are at greater risk for AIDS than is generally recognized.

The research project has its roots in college classes on women and AIDS. Six students who took the courses have volunteered to continue the research this summer.

The students will conduct personal interviews with women they encounter, asking questions about sexual history and practices and knowledge of AIDS. They also will give each of their subjects a safe-sex kit, which includes condoms and pamphlets about AIDS.

“What we are trying to do is develop an AIDS prevention program that is culturally sensitive,” said Lourdes Arguelles, professor of women’s studies, who started the Women and AIDS class in the fall.

“And for the students, this opens a whole new world for them. They establish relationships they would have never known. . . . They see the complexity of the world.”