With great privilege, campers met Leymah Gbowee, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner from Libera. She is known for leading the peace movement, Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, that helped lead to the end of Liberia's Second Civil War. Also, three CRS campers were interviewed live on the radio. It was an exciting week.
There's one week left until the 2017 campers arrive in New York City. What's happened so far: staff training, finalizing homestay and travel arrangements, arranging alumni worksite visits (where Campers visit alumni at their work-place and receive a tour), and most of the Campers have met their airfare-travel fundraising goals!
Hooman Yaghoobzadeh (CRS ‘87,’88) is a physician specialised in cardiovascular disease and internal medicine. As a CRS alumnus, he chairs the Health and Safety Committee and is part of the Reunion Committee. He will be celebrating his 30th CRS reunion this years. Chelsea Beyrand (CRS ‘07) just finished a graduate degree in nursing at Columbia University. Read their conversation about their careers, hopes for CRS and challenges as campers.
Chesea: What made you decide to become a physician, specifically in the field of cardiovascular disease?
Hooman: As always wanted to be a physician I had an interest in science, a Jewish mother, and I suppose other things i wasn’t aware of as a child. It culminated in just a love of the sciences and working with people and being interested in medicine. Medical school was reassuringly exciting and fun. I wanted to be a neurosurgeon because it was the hardest thing, but cardiology is a comb of physics and biology that is very interesting. It’s a physical kind of medicine as opposed to very cerebral. Half my practice is internal medicine, the other half is cardiology.
C: This summer marks your 30th camp anniversary. When you reflect back, in what ways has camp impacted your development both personally and professionally?
H: I think the most obvious answer is that I met one of my best friends, Robbie, to this way. We were in the same class at the same High School, at the same time, but had never talked before. We became best friends at camp. Now our family lives are entwined, we live 2 houses from each other. Camp has had an unbelievable influence on me. More generally, camp was a very eye opening experience. I was born in Iran, moved to the US, lived in different communities before we settled in Staten Island. But I was still rather naive about the world, about growing up, and how complicated life is. I thought I had pretty concrete ideas about right and wrong and camp challenged those significantly. It was the beginning of a lot of self discovery that I think is something that has continued to this day. In both me and Robbie. We are discovering new things and evolving. He’ll find something and teach me, and i’d do the same. We have been on a whole food protein based diet for 6 years, recently got into meditation. A part of my practice is difficult to identify medical issues, diseases that I didn't know, and trying to come up with solutions, so curiosity plays a big role.
Camp had a pretty big impact. Who knows how you’d turn out without anyone pushing you in a certain trajectory. For me and definitely for Robbie, we would have been very different people.
C: When you think back to your time as a camper, what is one memory that has stayed with you all of these years?
H: Councils were very memorable and I still remember some of the talks. And I really remember my hiking trip. I was so terrified, I felt we were gonna die. My legs would shake at times out of sheer fear of heights and hiking. It was difficult situation where i really was pushed past boundaries I didn’t think I’d pass. It was an amazing lesson, in retrospect in was a cake walk, I was just being naive. A lot of it goes back to how naive we are of each other’s experiences.
C: What advice do you have for young alumni as they are deciding upon a career or entering the workplace?
H: For me, what has really paid off is the continued process of self improvement. That constant self discovery is an internal process. Something that I think of as a stride against mediocrity. I hate mediocrity and i think it is something that we gravitate towards in all of our lives. It is something that is sort of a default state. And it sounds elitist to say. To me mediocrity just means you’re not achieving your potential. You’re not achieving as much as you can. But you have to stride to do that. One really valuable perspective that I have as a physician I see patients of all ages, from mid teenage years to a 105 year old. I see how people age. I see people who age gracefully, people who don’t, people who are bitter and feel left alone. And people who are still enjoying their later decades. The quality I see in the people who really enjoy the later decades is the quality of always pushing and trying to experience new things. Being joyful and having a sense of humor.
C: As the Chair of the Health & Safety Committee, you work with a group of alumni that use their combined skills to ensure that our campers and staff have a safe and healthy summer. Do you believe it is important for alumni to stay involved with CRS? If so, what are some ways that you recommend doing so.
H: During my generation of camp, we were never taught that somehow camp would only exist if we were involved in it once we left. But as you grow up you will keep some of those relationships you made, but the concept of CRS exists outside of these relationships. We weren’t taught the concept that this magical mix of culture and experience and youthful naivety won't continue forever to nourish young minds unless we make it so. A lot of that was about Freddy doing such an amazing job at making sure that camp would flourish for so many decades financially and in terms of energy. Both through the summers, but also by relationships he developed with others who would come and lead camp. It was a sort of fossil fuel energy that had been tapped and gushing oil. And when he passed, we had to put that all work in ourselves. But then we didn’t learn that at campers, which was a mistake. We need to learn that it won’t happen unless we make it happen. I was disengaged for decades. My CRS experience made it into all my applications and essays. But it wasn’t until it was made very clear to me that camp was going thru a tough financial situation when it shut down for a season. And that is when I got involved.
Out involvement as alumni is an existential question, if we can figure out how to make our alumni more involved, we will continue, if we don’t figure that out, we will not.
I recommend getting involved in committee work or joining the Visit Team, to see camp firsthand.
C: As an involved alum, what do you hope the future looks like for camp?
H: There are endless possibilities, the future is very bright. I am very excited about the people on the Board and those leading camp. They are measured and careful, and have a long history of experience with CRS. They are creative and optimistic about the future. The sky could be the limit as to what we can accomplish. The best thing we could figure out over the coming two decades is to reestablish two full length seasons. To try to increase the immersion. I think that is a goal that everyone is laser focused on. Before we start thinking about other lofty aspirations, this is something we all feel is necessary to prioritise. And it's a reachable goal. We just need to get alumni reengaged, and move that goal forward.
Homaan: When did you go to Camp? Have you always remained involved?
Chelsea: I went to Stendis in 2007. I wasn’t at first, but I am now. I am on the Health & Safety Committee, and now also on the Reunion Committee.
Homaan: When you hear alumni speak when they went to Red Hook or Clinton, do you hear your experience?
Chelsea: Absolutely, the mission is the same, we had council, challenging conversations… regardless of where it took place. I really hope to get Stendis alumni involved. We have a huge contingency in Europe.
C: If you could impart one piece of advice to this summer’s campers, what would you say to them?
H: Cherish being 14 and 15. And try your damn hardest to understand where people are coming from. Not from a geographic place, but where as far as their views about things that are happening in our world, religion, politics, love, pain, suffering. All of the things that really matter. Explore the top concepts, don’t be afraid to bring up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and talk about it. Don't ever take for granted the politically correct stance of what we are supposed to think about that issue as a liberal society. Because often times we don’t understand these issues for what they actually are but for what they have been published as. Camp is this magical opportunity to discuss these issues, you have Israeli and Palestinian campers, talk to them. Try to get to that place where we see what's common among us as opposed to what makes us different. It is just an unbelievable gift that you’ve been given or 4 weeks on end, not stop. Do that every second that you can. That opportunity comes once in a lifetime.
H: Chelsea, it’s your 10th-year reunion this year, how do you feel about that?
C: I feel old. I think it’s really interesting, camp comes at a time when you’re 15. Now, at 25, we are starting to figure out what the next chapter will look like. To see the success of my fellow camp mates, graduated from colleges all over the world, having opened businesses… Now I realize what a crazy talented community I am a part of and how that really has shaped my life.
Caroline Chiu (CRS ‘10) has been the first woman to hold both the titles of President and Editor in Chief of the Columbia Daily Spectator, the second oldest continuously operating college news daily in the US. She is currently finishing her degree in Biomedical Engineering and will start working in consulting this summer. Shai Sklar (CRS ‘16) is going back to camp this summer as a second year camper and is passionate about biology and engineering. Read their conversation below!
Shai Sklar: What are you doing now, and how did you get there?
Caroline Chiu: I am a senior at Columbia, and I study biomedical engineering. I have spent most time at Columbia over the past four years working with the Daily Spectator. It is the oldest or second oldest college paper in the US, and it is very prestigious. During 2016, I was both President and Editor in Chief of the Daily, and it has been a great honour and an opportunity to do very interesting work.
I had really enjoyed working for a newspaper in High School, and I found it a great way to make an impact. I have always been someone that likes to leave places better than how they were when I got there. It became really clear to me that beyond the obvious choice of being class president, I wanted to be part of the paper. I love writing stories about things that people care about. You can inspire people writing about positive things, or urge them to take action by making information available.
I was really inspired about being part of an organization where I had a chance to make Columbia a better place. That’s what pushed me to join in the first place. I didn’t start thinking that I wanted to be editor in chief, and I would have laughed if someone had told me that when I started. As I spent more time there, I fell in love with it. I first became editor, then ran for the editor in chief, and I was very happy to get it.
S: What do you think is the most influential thing you wrote about in the paper?
C: As an editor, I am not the primary writer, I help guide writers and reporters to chase after different stories. One of the most important ones during my time was on university spending. New York City is not very spacious, as many will know. Our President has been a visionary in acquiring new space for Columbia and 2 new buildings are being built at the moment. However, that investment has meant that some money wasn’t spent in other things. The story pointed out that while directing fundraising towards buying lands and buildings is important, a lot of departments weren’t seeing that money. This got people thinking about how universities spend their money and the importance of prioritising. Are these two buildings worth at the cost of some departments not seeing funding for a while?
One of the things that is really exciting about working at the paper is not so much telling people what’s right and what’s wrong, but putting the information out there and making people realize that there are always two sides in a story.
S: How have you managed to stay so involved in college life?
C: I study biomed engineering, which is very rigorous. A large part of it was knowing what was most important to me. Academic experience is very important to me, but one of the things that I have come to understand is that hands on experience matters most. Working at the newspaper allowed me to actively be the sachem of something. To have my own project, with which to grow and learn, and to continue learning about the meaning of leading and serving.
While you can learn this in class, you don’t learn the same skills. That to me is a very important experience that I wanted to learn at college, and american universities do a very good job at giving people these opportunities. I wanted to do this and as a result made time for it. I kept asking myself “what will I remember in 5,10, 15 years? Will I remember the extra studying hour or a really important conversation I had?”
S: How has Camp Rising Sun impacted your life thus far, and how do you think it will impact you in the future?
C: CRS has influenced me in a lot of ways that are tangible, and many others that I don’t even realize. But it has inevitably shaped my life. CRS is so unique, so few people in the world get to experience such an immersive camp with people from all around the world. I feel really lucky to have had the opportunity to go at the age of 14. The biggest lesson that has guided me is that it taught me how big the world is and it taught me to dream bigger. I’m from Queens, a borough in NY, it would be easy to just focus on that. But what I realized after camp, and in college too, is that Queens is just a tiny fraction of the whole world, and that all of us are constantly influencing each other.
This understanding of how big the world is taught me to dream bigger. It is great to make change in my community, but if I have the opportunity to not only impact my community but my country or the world, then I would like to use my life, my talents and skills to have as big an impact as I possibly can. Had it not been for CRS, I would not have an appreciation of how diverse and large the world is, and how common our interests are.
S: What advice would you give to Camp Rising Sun alumni?
C: Keep in touch and stay connected. It’s been 8 years since I went to camp, and a lot of things have happened in this time. It is easy to to lose touch as we live different lives, graduate college, move cities… But one of the greatest parts about camp is the people.
And there is so much to be gained from staying in touch. I went to the World Reunion in Budapest in 2010 and it was such an amazing feeling to reconnect. It struck me that I need to kept talking to them. With technology today, it is very easy to stay connected.
It is such a joy to hear from a fellow camper, even if you haven’t seen or spoken to them for a while.
S: How would you suggest a camper stay involved with and contribute to the CRS community?
C: It is different depending on where you are. I am lucky because I am in NY and camp is here and I can host campers when they arrive. If you are in the tristate area always volunteer to host people, it’s a great way to stay connected and make an impact. I remember hosting two campers a few years back and it really makes a difference to have a conversation with them before they go to camp, remind them to be open minded and so on.
Locally, make sure to go to and organise Alumni Association events. Make yourself go, you never will regret it. Even if you don’t know anybody there. Introduce yourself to people, we are campers for life.
If you travel where you know there’s a camper, reach out and say hello. I’m going to Amsterdam and I have messaged some people I will meet up with!
Something else I like to do is donate. It is not a lot, but I give what I can. Even if you can just give a few dollars, everything adds up. Camp is not possible if there is no fundraising. No matter how small, it will make a difference.
S: How do you think your experience and your connection with LAJF and CRS will help you in the future?
C: In general my CRS experience reminds me that the world is large, and that any impact that I am making right now I can make ten fold if I look bigger. I am starting a job in July in consulting, but before I want to travel, the curiosity that CRS had given me, and the relations I made are something you can only get through CRS.
Regarding the actual job, I get to give them preferences about where I want to take on projects. Because of CRS, I will ask to be sent as far away as I can. Those choices that I am making are very much because of my time at CRS. I just know there is so much out there that I wouldn’t have known about had I not gone to camp.
There are so many other ways that I probably don’t even know. Keeping me open minded and reflective. I am so grateful, I really don’t think there is anything else in the world like it.
By Chenyue Cai (CRS 2015)
Time moves so quickly at Camp. The bus arrives and before you know it, the bus leaves. It was difficult to leave such a supportive and loving community. As a Chinese camper, staying connected is difficult because of the 12-hour time gap and website blocking issues. Last year I became the CRSCAA website editor and have now taken the lead on Chinese camper selection… It’s been quite a year to get involved!
The CRSCAA has been doing a lot of interesting things lately, and we would like to share them with the CRS community. We hope this encourages other alumni associations to do more together. If you want to get your regional association together or do more, make sure to reach out to Mads Nissen, Alumni and Engagement Coordinator at LAJF, who was very helpful to us.
Alumni selection: The work of camper selection in Shanghai is given to the CRS Alumni who are currently attending Shanghai Foreign Language School, a long-time partner school. This year, a group interview was given to six finalists and the interviewer asked various questions to determine the top two candidates to attend Camp Rising Sun. This is a great opportunity to see ourselves reflected in this young candidates. The selection process in Tianjin is somewhat similar. There we are partnered with the Tianjin Foreign Language School.
Refreshing CRSCAA Website: We refreshed the official CRSCAA website, first initiated by three campers from 2010-2011 and maintained by Ziheng Zhou (CRS’2000), to share our camp stories. Chenyue Cai (CRS’2015) took on the editing responsibility of the website and with the help of a few other campers posted several articles including Q&A for new campers, reflection as a second year, 2016 camp picture wall. We plan to update the website more frequently in the future with more content around the whereabouts of our alumni around the world. Check out our website here: http://www.crscaa.org/
Stay connected: The in-school Alumni took photos on camp T-shirt day and made a great welcome video as well. We are also trying to simulate a council and originate other meaningful activities to celebrate the spirit of Camp Rising Sun.
An Invite-Only Facebook Group Was Set Up: 2005 alumnae Kate Yuan started a Facebook group in summer 2016 as a way to engage overseas CRS Alumni from China, as half of the alumni base is in the U.S. and Facebook is not easily accessible in China. Acquainted CRS alumni invited each other and the group soon grew to over 30 people.
Establishing CRS Chinese Alumni WeChat Group: Soon after the Facebook group gained some traction, a WeChat group was established, thanks to 2013 alumnae Lisa Zhou. Today, the WeChat group has 60+ members, with the oldest alumni attending CRS as far back as in 1994! Old friends reconnected, new campers were introduced, and memories of Rhinebeck were shared. Moreover, we are able to use this platform to update everyone with the latest camp news and photos, and reengage alumni who have been out of touch with the CRS community.
New Campers: We are very excited to share that a total of 5 young adults will be joining CRS this coming summer – two from Shanghai (Harry Z. and Yanbing X.), two from Tianjin (Eric Y. and Mingxi Z.), and William W. from Shanghai who will be a second-year! We hope the very best for them and can’t wait to hear their experiences.
Fundraising: Our goal this year is to get all of the Chinese alumni to make a donation, no matter what size. Tim Wong, '79, who lived and worked in China for many years, is providing a match to encourage the Chinese alumni to become donors.