Towards the end of the holidays, Shauna Gray and Lorena Kuchenbecker spent a week in Dunedin where they attended the Otago Advanced School Sciences Academy, or OUASSA for short.  The girls stayed at a residential college called Arana, which is where university students board and the camp was fully funded with everything paid for; accommodation, flights and food.

Shauna says she was nervous about going at first, she wasn't sure what to expect and how complicated the projects would be, but says they were definitely more intriguing than difficult. “They weren't testing us, they just wanted to share their passion for science with us”.

Both girls enjoyed meeting new like minded people at the camp as Lorena says they “all had a passion for science and where it could take us, which is what brought us closer. At first, all we really had in common was that passion for science and talked mostly about exam results, but it grew to something greater as the week progressed. It was awesome being surrounded by students that thrive off learning new things, it was exactly like being in a classroom with eager students that are all interested in what they're learning; that aspect is difficult to come by in a classroom of 30 at high school”.  Shauna found that every single person was positive and approachable and by the end of the camp they were almost like a family which was amazing as we everyone had only known each other for a week.

Shauna and Lorena describe a normal day on camp like this:

We had the option of going to the UniPol gym each morning.

Breakfast was eaten, then we would meet as a group so we could have an outline of what our day will look like. 

We would leave to go to an hour morning seminar where professors and doctors would talk about their learning journeys, research and passions, and about specific pathways for careers in science that focused on biomedical, immunology, organic chemistry, scientific surveying, philosophy. . We would sit in a lecture room, and I think it would come close to how learning would look like at university. 

After the seminar, we would head off to our projects. Prior to the camp, we chose 2 projects and an elective. Shauna’s projects were anatomy and physiology, and exercise and sport science with her elective being psychology. Lorena chose  zoology and marine science.  For 5 hours, the girls would learn a lot about their subjects, and the majority of the projects were hands-on and barely any theory, “which is great to experience considering we only have limited time to access these kinds of facilities”. During Shauna’s projects, she dissected a deer knee and also swam in a Flume, which is basically a swimming treadmill and it is the same flume Michael Phelps swam in. 

After project time, the group would have options of what they wanted to do in their free time. During these times, Shauna went on a tiki tour around Dunedin and went to it's most popular 'landmarks' such as the steepest street in the world etc., and also when laser tagging aswell as having free time exploring Dunedin. 

The group would come back for dinner and after dinner go to their science communication groups. For science communication, the groups chose a topic and have to present a speech in front of the public in July when they go back for another week. 

Shauna says attending the camp has definitely helped her to understand how a University works and what student life is like. Her motivation to go to University has definitely increased as the camp opened her eyes to all the career options out there and how flexible a degree is if you decide you want to change course on what you are studying, there is never a fixed pathway you have to follow once you've started a degree.

Attending the camp has made Lorena realise that she wants to focus more on school and enjoy the subjects she is interested in the most. Before the camp, she was scared about what next year has to hold, but after meeting all these new people, being given a deeper understanding of how University life works and being exposed to different aspects of science careers, she is no longer scared - in fact she is excited!

Something that surprised me about attending this camp was how fast friendships actually formed, and the amount of exposure we were able to experience of a student's life at Otago. Staying at a students hall, attending short seminars and interacting with kids from all over New Zealand was merely a snippet of what's to come next year. 

Lorena wants to study Veterinary Science or Zoology next year, with a post-grad in Conservation of Wildlife as she hopes to work with endangered species, while Shauna is now considering pursuing a career in neurophysiotherapy, or something along those lines.  

Both Shauna and Lorena implore other students to have a go if they are interested in applying to this science camp in the future, “honestly do it!” says Shauna. “This has been the best experience, and the worst thing that could happen is you don't get in. However, the best thing that could happen is you get into a free camp, filled with students like yourself and you get a full week of science!”  Lorena agrees and says “it's one of the only camps that you go on twice a year so you are able to reconnect with the people you met in the January camp”.

We congratulate both girls for their enthusiasm and how well they represented Trident High School and our Science Department.  Upon their return from the camp in July we will follow up with the girls to hear how the second part of the camp has gone for them.

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