It may be hard to imagine that anyone would choose to leave home four months to go to a school where most of one’s time outside the classroom is spent working on a farm or woodlot, in an aviary, maintaining buildings, or simply enjoying nature. But, there are at least 42 people who have. I would be very naïve to try and summarize Chewonki in a short blog, but I can tell you that it is the most wonderful place I have ever been. If you consider yourself a prospective student I strongly urge you not to hesitate. Apply; let yourself experience what I am experiencing now. I have been here for less than two months and yet I already feel changed. I have no doubt that I have grown as a student, a friend, a co-worker and an individual.
As a student I had always been relatively intelligent, but I lacked the motivation and structure to make sure I did all of my work. Here, however, there are set study hours during which everyone does his or her homework. This may seem somewhat petty, but having two hours everyday devoted to work allows me nearly all the time I need. And, it also removes the many distractions that would exist otherwise, such as just hanging out with friends, because everyone is focused on their work. Also, there is a very relaxed approach to grades. By no means would I say that the classes are easy, but learning is emphasized far more than the grade. At first I was worried that this approach would only lessen my motivation. It has turned out, however, to be quite the opposite. I am now motivated by my own desire to produce good work, not for the teacher’s approval, but for my own satisfaction.
But my growth has happened far more outside the classroom. I have formed friendships here within only the first two months that I am confident will last a lifetime. I work, eat, sleep, and play with the same people every day and yet I enjoy their company more and more each day. We work together for the community and through those challenges our friendships grow. We spend much of our leisure time taking walks on the Neck, reveling in each other’s company, and then we go to sleep in beds ten feet from one another, listening to the comforting sound of our friends’ deep, sleep-laden breaths. To an outsider, these may sound like uncomfortably close relationships. But for me, being able to share so much of my life with these amazing companions fills me with the purest joy. I have never been in a place where I felt so accepted and loved, and I dread the day when I am forced to leave.
-Ben Surface, South Orange, NJ