Patrick Henry College
Esther Grace Ehrenman
Sitting inside the same classroom are a former New Zealand diplomat, a former writer for Vogue, a sixteen-year-old intern with the secret service, and a PHC student, brought together for seven weeks to bond over their mutual love of words and to learn how to deepen their understanding of writing.
Esther Grace Ehrenman (Political Theory, 2016) decided to spend her summer studying journalism at the Harvard Summer School. Founded in 1871, it was the first academic summer school in the United States. Ehrenman is a political theory major at PHC, but plans on pursuing her masters in journalism in hopes of one day writing for The Economist. To help jumpstart that goal, she is learning to fine-tune her writing at Harvard, with classes earning her credits towards a graduate degree.
She is taking a full summer load with two classes – Feature Writing and News, and Reporting for the Web, Media, and Other Platforms – and while her writing classes do not have exams, the writing is constant and demanding, with each student’s work critiqued by their class members. The school’s academic rigor is, she says, comparable to her PHC coursework, which helped prepare her for Harvard and has kept her from feeling overwhelmed by its furious pace.
“Even though it’s difficult, it’s good preparation for real life,” she said. “I didn’t come here just to laze away the days.”
Her assignments have varied from writing about “a trend” (she chose vegan restaurants), to writing about the “atmosphere of a place” (she wrote about one of Boston’s farmers’ markets), to shadowing an Iraq War veteran and writing 1,600 words about his life today. She loves that her classes are complimenting each other, teaching her the differences among a wide variety of stories. As a result of her classes, she has grown more active on Twitter, seeing it as a vibrant promotional platform for cultivating an audience for her work.
When she’s not in class, Esther’s days are occupied completing class assignments, spending time with her new friends, and enjoying many of Harvard’s summer activities. She is also involved in Harvard’s Chorale, which complements her work with the PHC Chorale during the school year.
Aside from the impressive array of people and classmates she has met studying at Harvard, her interaction with the program’s accomplished professors has been deeply inspiring.
“I still don’t believe that I can walk the cobblestone streets of Cambridge over to my class and learn from a New York Times writer,” Ehrenman said. “We’re all coming together over this love of writing. It doesn’t matter that we’re from very different places around the globe.”
While her classes at Harvard wrap up and she prepares to return to PHC for the fall, she’s already looking toward next summer, weighing a return to Harvard’s summer writing program to add credits toward a master’s degree, or perhaps traveling to Spain to burnish her language skills.
As for this summer, though, she has cherished the time spent with others: "I can love and learn from people who are radically different than me," she said. "The world is bigger than I imagined, and people everywhere are created in the image of God."