Summer Programs and Being Back!

Hello!  My name is Marie Leighton McCall.  I am a returning lower from North Carolina and am excited to be a part of Big Red Bloggers!

My first year at Exeter was full of change, challenge, and opportunity.  Not satisfied with spending just the school year with my fellow Exonians, I decided to apply for an Exeter summer program and on June 27 found myself in Tokyo with nine of my schoolmates.  My host family spoke little English and as a result I learned more of the Japanese language.  My friends and I tried too many foods to count, interned with English teachers at Kumon Jr. / Sr. High School in Yokohama, and visited temples, gardens, a hot spring, and some fun shopping districts in Tokyo.  It was a wonderful trip and I am grateful for the time I was able to spend with my friends while we toured parts of Japan and learned about its language and culture.


Fast forward to September and you don’t realize how much you’ve missed Exeter until you return from summer vacation and spend your first night back in your dorm.  That doesn’t mean you don’t miss your family, but after spending a year living with thirty plus caring, interesting and fun girls, my dorm has become my second home.  Turns out getting back into the rhythm of Harkness comes quickly as well.  The teachers gave us time to re-acclimate to Harkness, but most of us were ready to jump in.  Within a couple of days of returning to school, it felt completely normal to walk along the paths to classes, go to d-hall with friends, and spend hours with five other girls in my room laughing and talking.  My friends and I were excited to dive back into Exeter life and one way I chose to do so was to get involved in more clubs this year.  In addition, I decided to go out on a limb and sign up for two dance groups on campus, just to try something new.  Over the last year, I have learned that Exeter is where I can take chances, try new things, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and find what I love to do.

One of my favorite days of fall term, Academy Life Day, gave me a chance to really spend time with my dorm mates.  We had breakfast together in d-hall in our pajamas, spent time in the art studio painting large mugs while often breaking into song, and played games together outside.  We had perfect weather and it was a great day to just be together as a dorm and have fun.


I am so happy to be back!

Exeter vs. Choate After the New England Championships

Hey guys!

I’m so excited to start off the year with an exciting post of the volleyball team’s first home game of the season against Choate. Arguably, one of the most crucial dates of the season. This year, Exeter hosted the big game against our New England Championship rival on October 3. The team was fired up before the big day, and we were determined to have a successful win. The day before, the family of one of our players– the Epler’s– was generous enough to host the whole team for a delicious dinner and an amazingly fun pumpkin carving contest.

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Exactly a year ago, Exeter traveled three hours to Choate’s campus for a double header against Choate and the Ethel Walker School, where we won one but lost to Choate in five games. We faced them again in November 2014 for the New England Championships title and won in three games on our home court! We knew this game was going to be the most challenging one of the season, as they were our only loss last year, and that’s mainly why we were so hyped for the Saturday game. Image 3

We knew beforehand that they had graduated two middles from last year’s team, but we were prepared to see some new faces on the court. The game had a great turnout of students and faculties on one side outnumbering the parents who came to support Choate’s players. In the first game, we were behind 7-15 (eight points below) but were able to surpass them with our consistent serves and our defensive passing. The next two matches were lead by Exeter, ending the game in three sets. We had some amazing plays and solo hits by our front row players. The team did outstandingly well and we are all definitely optimistic for the rest of the season, and hopefully, defend our Championship title.

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Make sure to watch out for our home games and support the Girls Varsity Volleyball team!

Have a great fall season and first term back on campus!


Cilley Academy Life Day

Hey guys!

It’s been a while since I last wrote, so here’s an update on how things are going:

It’s three weeks into Senior Fall and I’ve definitely been busy running clubs, practicing a lot of piano, studying hard, and of course, college apps, but life at Exeter has been really lively and fun. It’s great to be back with some of my greatest friends and the energy the new students bring is phenomenal.

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Anyways, here’s a photo from Academy Life Day, which is a day for dorm bonding that we get once a year in the fall. Cilley Hall (my dorm and home) always goes to Plum Beach for a few hours and then eats dinner together at Szechuan Taste, a nearby Chinese restaurant.

This photo here features all of the seniors in Cilley, ranging from four years to some new post-grads, or PG’s. Honestly, I can’t believe my last ALD has passed. Seems like just yesterday it was my first time at Plum Beach.


Working at Stanford, Traveling, and Getting Ready for Senior Year

Hey everyone!

The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity. While summer flew by, it was an amazing time.

It started out with a low-budget trip around Europe with my best friend, who graduated in June. We did tons of hiking, exploring, and unwinding, and it was a spectacular ten days. Then, after one day of recuperation at home, I was off to Palo Alto, California for six weeks of work at Stanford.

I was working in Dr. Seung Kim’s  ’81 lab in Developmental Biology at the Stanford Medical School. The internship was possible because of the work I did in the Bio 470 course at Exeter, which I wrote about earlier. In any case, Ethan, another senior, and I, moved to a house in California to live and cook on our own and work in a world class lab. Our main tasks were dissecting, staining, and imaging different fly lines, but we also got to attend lab meetings, hear thesis defenses, listen in on talks from renown scientists, and discuss numerous scientific papers with our main mentor, Lutz Kockel. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life, but I won’t write too much about it here because Ethan and I actually kept a blog about our time there,

You can read my two latest posts, summing up the six weeks in Palo Alto: and

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After Stanford, I spent a month with my family relaxing, working out, and preparing essays for college applications! It’s scary, but exciting.

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Although we have only been at Exeter a couple weeks, it seems everybody is already in the swing of things. My senior year so far has been so busy, but so fun. I am taking US History, which is already so interesting, first year Greek (which is quite difficult), Calculus, and Journalism. Possibly the coolest course I am taking this year is Latin 611, which is basically just me, a friend, and a teacher. My friend, Henry, and I have finished the core curriculum for Latin at Exeter, so now we are reading whatever we want! We chose a Roman comedy by Plautus called the Menaechmi. It is about two twins, separated at birth, and both named Menaechmi. Let’s just say, it gets quite confusing, but it is also quite hilarious.

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Until next time,


The Start of a New Year

Hello Everybody!

I hope that the start of the school year is going well for all of you! The first few weeks of a new year can be extremely exciting. It is always great to see returning students as well as the new-comers. At Exeter, your dorm-mates and friends become your family so catching up after spending three months apart is important. The hustle and bustle of moving into your new room, buying your books and getting back into your routine, is what truly signifies the start of the year.

Before you know it, you are trading in your shorts and flip-flops for jeans and boots. Here at Exeter, fall is truly in the air. We are three weeks into the school year, and I am loving it. Upper year at Exeter (any high school really), can be very stressful, and it truly tests your time-management skills. While this year has been challenging, it is very rewarding and I love all of my classes. My favorite class this term is Ecology. Biology has always been a passion of mine, and I’ve wanted to go to medical school since I was nine. Biology is a time-consuming course, but it is very interesting which makes all of the studying worth it in my eyes.

It is hard to believe that I am over half-way done with my time at Exeter. This term alone has flown by incredibly fast. Fall term at Exeter is by far my favorite, so I am trying to savor as much of it as I can before the days get short and we are all forced to break our Bean Boots out of storage.

I hope you are all having a great start to your year!

Good Luck,


Summer Fellowship Project on Race and Incarceration in the American Justice System!

Hey guys!

I’m so excited to tell you all about the amazing opportunities I had over the summer doing a fellowship research on race and incarceration! For the past four summers, StuCo has offered the Fellowship Progr am for rising uppers and seniors to research a specific area of topic or participate in a community service project. When the fellows return to Exeter in the fall, we present projects to the community.

This year, there were four fellows including myself, and we spent the summer working on independent projects across the globe. My project specifically focused on the flawed American justice system that performs racialized social control and over-incarcerates people. It was inspired by the recent uprisings against the lack of indictment of Darren Wilson and the speech delivered at Exeter by Bryan Stevenson. The purpose of the project was to investigate how the system of mass incarceration fuels and is fueled by the still-prevalent racial injustice in America. Furthermore, my personal goal for this project was to explore where Asian Americans like myself fit into the often binary narrative of racial injustice and mass incarceration.

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to interview different social justice workers, professors, lawyers, and the previously incarcerated from New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Chicago. I visited rehabilitation or legal assistance nonprofits such as the Osborne Association (NY), the Fortune Society (NY), the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights (CA), ACLU, and Boston Mobilization (MA). I also interviewed an ex-prisoner who served a very long sentence from New York, as well as Ross Mirkarimi, the sheriff of San the place and the role of Asian Americans in ending racial injustice. In addition to that, I had an opportunity to intern at a nonprofit called Boston Mobilization, where I organized protests against mass incarceration, participated in legislative meetings with senators and representatives, and hosted youth workshops to raise awareness. Here are several photos of me and some of my interviewees:
This project has motivated me to take active, brave steps to end mass incarceration and racial injustice. I’m currently making a documentary with the interviews and am also writing an essay about the role of Asian Americans in ending racial injustice. We are having an assembly for all the fellows to present their work in winter term, so I’m super excited for that, too!
– Serena


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It’s been a week since graduation.  My four years at Exeter culminated last Sunday, when in the company of my family and friends, I walked across the stage to receive my diploma from Principal Hassan.  I’m an alumna (not an alumnus as my classics-taking-friends corrected me).  

The morning began with a trip to d-hall, as had almost every morning preceding it.   But instead of my standard greek yogurt and fruit, I walked into Elm to see a Sunday brunch spread I had never seen before: bagels and lox!  As I noshed, my friends walked into d-hall, wearing the typical Exeter graduation clothes: white dress for girls and blazers, bow-ties (or ties) for boys.  As I had yet to change, I made my way back to my dorm, when I got ready before the 10:30 ceremony started. 

Grad began with a procession.  The seniors, all 299 of us, lined up alphabetically as we proceeded towards the Academy lawn.  Our families, our teachers, and many of our underclassmen friends applauded us as we walked in, sitting before the audience. 

Grad lasted about two hours.  We sang, we listened to speeches.  We applauded as our peers were called up to receive their diplomas, waiting for our turn.  It was the happiest and most excited I had seen many of my classmates since prep (freshmen) fall.  This day was ours.  We had done it, we had graduated. 

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Now, it’s strange.  My class has scattered across the world–to go home, to go on a trip, to go to work–but I like to believe our friendships will beat the distance.  For four years I was told Exeter friendships are unlike other friendships.  I’ve been told Exonians will continue to play a role in my life, as will Exeter, if only I let them.  And I hope to do so. Because though Exeter had its ups and downs, I can’t imagine my life without those four years.  As I prepare to go to college, I’ve mourned for my time at Exeter.  From Saturday-night Pad Thai runs, church basement ukulele sessions, bridge jumping, and hours spent in the library, I’ll miss not only what I had, but who I spent the time with.  At the same time, I’m excited to see Exonians outside the Exeter-bubble.  I’m ready to meet new people while maintaining connections with those I already know.  I think it was Rev who told this to me shortly before graduation, but my attitude throughout the entire process has been this: the end is just a new beginning. 

Here’s to the Class of 2015!  And to those of you looking at Exeter or preparing to start in the fall.  Welcome.  You’re about to start an amazing journey. 

Spring Cheer

Hey Everybody!

Although it always takes some time for the weather to warm and the flowers to bloom, by the month of May spring in Exeter is always a wonderful time. It is sunny and hot, kids are always playing or sun tanning on the quad, and the mood on campus is unlike any other, especially as the final days of the year near. One thing that is different about this year’s spring is that I have had the opportunity to take Bio470, a special biology research course that Exeter started up in partnership with Stanford a couple years ago.

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I won’t get into the details of the course, but essentially a few years ago Exeter and Stanford developed a piece of DNA that can hop around in a fly genome and be inserted into random genes. The lab we are working with is particularly interested in the fly body part that correlates to the pancreas, so if we find a line of flies that has expression in their pancreas during development, that would be of interest to the lab at Stanford.  Instead of having regular Harkness conversations and preparing homework readings, we mostly sort flies and set up crosses for class time and homework. You not only get to do lab work first hand (learning immediately that anything that can go wrong, will), but you also get to hang out with awesome classmates and our teachers Mr. Chisholm and Ms. Rankin, who are both very smart and very fun. Overall, I am so glad I got to take part in this class.

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Another part of spring term that makes it great is the tennis team! We have been having a great season, and we are the first seed heading into the New England Championships tomorrow. I will admit, winning matches is fun, but not as fun as being on a team with a bunch of friends.