Allison Chang and Yilmaz Oklay are both seniors at Duke University. The two also attended the same high school in Charlotte, NC. But until recently, they didn’t know about yet another connection: a lifechanging experience at TIP. Our staff recently caught up with Allison and Yilmaz for an interview. Here are their responses:
What are you studying at Duke?
Allison Chang: I’m currently a senior studying Neuroscience. I’ve always been drawn to the sciences and I especially love the interdisciplinary nature of neuroscience and its connection to other fields like psychology, education, health, and economics. I will graduate this May and will likely stay at Duke for at least another year continuing my current research at a lab here focusing on Parkinson’s disease.
Yilmaz Oklay: I’m earning a double major in political science and philosophy and a minor in economics. I was drawn to this field after seeing how valuable interdisciplinary approaches are when solving problems of all scales. My course of study is nestled within the broader PPE (politics, philosophy, economics) program here at Duke. This upcoming year, I will be taking a position with IBM in research triangle park and will use this time after graduation to reflect upon and possibly pursue opportunities for further education.
How did you first hear of TIP?
AC: I had no idea what TIP was when my mom told me about it. I didn’t even know what Summer Studies was. I assumed it would be an amalgam of school and traditional summer camp.
YO: I first heard of the TIP program in middle school, I think 6th or 7th grade. Duke TIP gave me the opportunity to take the SAT. This was something that I would have never thought to do on my own, and I’m extremely grateful for the doors it opened for me. I had such a good experience with TIP that I applied to several field studies programs in the following years.
When did you attend TIP, and what programs and course did you take?
AC: I attended TIP [Summer Studies] in the summer of 2010 (time really flew by)! I was in 7th grade. I took a Theatre Arts class at the Appalachian State campus. I still remember the abundance of trees and breathtaking mountain views.
YO: I attended 3 Field Studies programs: Astronomy (in Pisgah mountains), the Futures Institute (at Duke), and Medical Technology (at Duke). I did all these in consecutive summers of freshman, sophomore, and junior year in high school. I think that would be 2012, 2013, and 2014.
What was your experience like?
AC: TIP was my first stay-away summer camp, so I remember being a little apprehensive about being away from family for so long. I quickly settled in though, making friends with both TIPsters I lived with and other classmates. It was different from a typical classroom experience in that the vibe was more relaxed. The instructors were knowledgeable about theatre and knew how to bond with the students and make reading plays fun. I was always quiet as a child, so this experience was immensely helpful in that it carefully and slowly nudged me outside my comfort zone.
By the end of the program, I was much more comfortable speaking in front of larger audiences. I had also gained an appreciation for Shakespeare though our acting out of Hamlet in class. One of my favorite memories was our final performance at the end of the program. Each of us wrote our own play that our fellow classmates would act out in front of the rest of the camp. I loved seeing my own work come to life and watch the reactions from the audience members. This experience was a fantastic introduction to theatre, a subject I’m not sure I would have explored on my own. I took a theatre class in high school, partly inspired by my time at TIP.
YO: My experience at TIP was truly awesome. The TIP experience differentiated itself from a typical classroom both in the content of its curriculum as well as the environment in which the learning was conducted. I had opportunities to engage in so many “hands-on” opportunities, from using huge Soviet-era telescopes, creating sustainability plans for Jakarta, to building model prosthetics for amputees. I had opportunities to explore fields that were genuinely interesting and not necessarily part of a broader ‘professional’ roadmap.
I feel that this really offered an environment that encouraged creativity. Furthermore, the Field Studies programs also never felt stifling; the balance between learning and fun was handled really well. The times I spent with my fellow TIPsters playing cards, going kayaking, and even just eating meals are some of the most memorable times of my high school ‘career.’ I had a unique chance to meet (and work with) like-minded students from around the world; the diversity of thought and experiences amongst fellow TIPsters made the experience truly eclectic. There really was a great sense of community at TIP camps that brought the whole experience together for me.
How well did you know each other in high school?
AC: It’s funny-I don’t believe Yilmaz and I ever crossed paths at Ardrey Kell (our high school) or at Duke. I remember seeing him senior year of high school with a Duke sweatshirt on, and that was our initial connection.
YO: We weren’t very familiar with each other at all in high school. I had no idea she had also participated in Duke TIP. I didn’t even know we were both applying to Duke until I found out that we had both gotten in! Our high school was fairly large, at about 2,500 students, so I had no idea that we were charting such a similar path in isolation from each other!
When did you finally recognize the connection you had through high school, TIP, and Duke?
AC: A few months ago, I was meeting with Vicki Rennecker-Nakayoshi, the Assistant Director of Development & Alumni Engagement, who reached out to discuss TIP alumni engagement opportunities. She mentioned she was also meeting another Duke student from Charlotte who attended TIP – Yilmaz. Vicki and I were both amused when I told her he attended my high school. I still haven’t seen Yilmaz on campus. It’s unfortunate, but unsurprising since I think we’re both very busy with completely different classes and extracurricular activities.
YO: The TIP program was also responsible for this! The outreach that TIP conducted made me aware of these connections, and I’m very glad it did. As we are both in our senior year and our time at Duke is coming to a close, this is an excellent opportunity for us to form a connection now. It’s not too late!
What’s it like to have attended Duke TIP and then end up at Duke?
AC: For me, my experience at TIP did not particularly influence my decision to apply to Duke, since my site was at App State, a completely different campus. My first time setting foot on Duke’s campus was when I was a sophomore in high school touring colleges in the state.
YO: My experience at TIP definitely solidified my interest in Duke. The Field Studies programs that were held on-campus were especially convincing. I had the chance to spend several weeks at an amazing institution, while all the older students were gone. It sometimes felt like I had the university to myself for a summer! I remember strolling in front of the chapel at night, with no one around, thinking about what it might be like to be a student here.
Additionally, I felt like I came away having learned so much from my TIP experience, and I was extremely grateful to Duke for having provided me with those opportunities. I was eager to become a student myself and see how I could make my own contribution back to the university, through academics but also in community.
What else should we know?
AC: My younger brother, Andrew, completed a TIP program in economics last summer on Duke’s campus. It was cool knowing my brother spent time in the very dorms and buildings I’ve been in during my time at Duke. He had a very positive experience and wants to do it again this summer. Perhaps for him, his TIP experiences will more strongly influence his decisions when it comes time for him to apply to colleges.