Soap sits for a brief interview to discuss the cool and strange things they're learning in their CSI Concentration. After a long year of virtual learning, meeting new people and taking risks was necessary to jump start excitement for learning and the bright future ahead of them.

Can you begin with your name and your pronouns? And if you could have any superpower, what superpower would you want?

So my name is Soap. My pronouns are they/them/their, and if I could have any superpower, I would love to be able to speak with animals. It would be fun to know what's going on in a dog or squirrel’s mind. You can only get so much across talking to them, only so much I can understand of them.

Can you tell me a little bit about your Concentration and what you've been doing?

I’m in CSI. We’ve done so many different things. Every day we learn an entirely new topic related to crime scene investigation. It's kind of crazy how it seems as if we are speed-running an entire college course. We have guest speakers who are experts on certain subjects that we're learning. For example, we had a guest speaker for fingerprinting, and another for trace evidence. Today we had a Forensic Entomologist, an expert on how bugs correspond with forensic science. So I learned a lot about maggots today. I remember learning about that a few months ago and just being fascinated that it was an entire field of study. So it was interesting to talk to someone who is an expert on that.

We’ve done fingerprinting in the lab. We did a mock crime scene, which was way more intricate than I thought it would be. I thought just throw a dummy body on the ground with a few objects surrounding it, but I was surprised by how much they did. They buried bones under the dirt. It was intricate. It was also very cool to meet Dr. Henry Lee. It was amazing to meet such a famous forensic scientist. My mom was even impressed. He was here for a few days, too, and we were able to talk with him after class. He would speak about what he did and freely give advice. 

What was one of your favorite things that you learned in your Concentration?

I learned the skills needed to investigate crimes. When we investigated the mock crime scenes, we all knew what needed to be done because of our classes and labs. For example, we knew how to do fingerprinting and examine the blood splatter patterns. 

I've also been kind of amazed by all the specialists we're talking to. We're seeing their work. You don't get that a lot, especially with forensic investigations, because it's usually private, but we're seeing real stuff. We don’t have to solely rely on our imaginations. I'm glad that EXPLO is letting us see that.

What brought you to EXPLO this summer?

Two years ago, I think I literally Googled ‘learning camp’ or something like that, and EXPLO was one of the first search results. I quickly realized I didn't need to look further though because everything seemed well put together. There are a lot of camps that aren’t as immersive or feel more like glorified daycares, so EXPLO stood out. So yeah, two years ago I figured out how badly I wanted to go, and I put everything together for my financial aid, like my essay and background, and then COVID happened. This year they started Concentration programs, so I didn’t want to miss out again.

Can you tell me a little bit about your interests outside of academics here?

I was excited for EXPLO specifically for the opportunity to meet a lot of new people all at once. I haven't interacted this much with so many new people in a while. My school was all online last year, and for the last third of the year before that. I haven't met many new people or been able to talk and share my interests. I didn't even realize how much that was affecting me until I came here and began socializing with so many people again. 

So I was excited to just talk to people and make friends. That happened easily, more quickly than I expected. 

What do you think made it so easy?

Everyone is incredibly friendly. They're incredibly willing to talk and genuinely try to be nice to people. That's not always been true with everyone at school. People are welcoming and invite you over to talk. More people seem to be accepting of different gender identities. You're surrounded by people who have similar interests in your concentrations. And even if they're not in your Concentration, so many people came here to learn new things in a fun way. 

You have 24 hours left in the program. Is there anything else you'd like to accomplish or anything on your bucket list you'd like to check off?

We still have our presentations for CSI, so that still feels a little big and crazy. We still need to practice. I'm excited for it even though it's going to be a little scary. I'm excited to have this cumulative project. With some other projects at school, it can feel rushed or like I'm focused on the grade. It’s nice to work on something I’m proud of. 

I also want to make sure I surround myself with people who make me happy and in this last day. I want to have fun while being brave and taking risks while I still can.