Hey STAND, my name’s Danny Hirschel-Burns and I’m a rising junior at Swarthmore College and a member of Swarthmore STAND. After attending the spring STAND conference my freshman year, I found myself very frustrated with STAND and unsure I wanted to continue involving myself with the organization. STAND camp changed all of that. It was the most intense period of thought and conversation I’d had since I began college. I was surrounded by intelligent, motivated, and fun kids for nearly twenty-four hours a day. Saying twenty-four wasn’t an exaggeration, because I got very, very little sleep. I am a person who loves their unconscious time, and constantly strives for eight hours, but that simply wasn’t an option for me at STAND camp. The official sessions often lasted from 9 am to 9 pm, and afterwards of course, I had to dissect everything we had talked about with everyone else there. My conversations stretched long, long into the night. There were certainly many different perspectives, and I think everyone there learned more about the issues as well as improved their ability to make a concise, coherent argument.
Beyond the intellectual side of STAND camp, which I did appreciate very much, there was the social aspect. The high amount of exposure between you and the fellow STAND campers leads to a highly conducive social atmosphere. Because most people don’t know anyone when they first arrive, you are forced to make friendships quickly. I promise it isn’t hard. And so while everyone makes friends quickly, the more important part is that many of my friendships last well beyond STAND camp. Last winter break, I visited two of the people that I met at STAND camp (Sonia Sen of the University of Arizona and Jared Naimark from Stanford), and just got back a week ago from seeing Sonia in New York. They are two of my best friends, and I’m so glad that STAND camp gave me the opportunity to meet them. They are certainly not the only ones though. These many friendships were cemented through zip-lines, lobbying senators, airport mishaps, hotel room shenanigans, and swimming adventures with shirtless men you met in the woods. I’m still in touch with at least ten of the people I met at STAND camp, and have an even larger base of committed advocates and friends to call upon if I need help. In short, STAND camp was an incredibly transformative experience, and has totally sculpted the way I participate in STAND. I can’t wait to attend this year, and if anyone has any questions, I’d be happy to talk with you. See you in a few weeks!