Before coming to Chewonki, I experienced a series of small-scale panic attacks during every step of the process. From the moment I left the information session at my school, the seed had been planted, and the self-interrogation didn’t stop. I had so many doubts and fears, not only about coming to Chewonki, but also about leaving my school. Do I really want to leave the tightly knit community that my class had already formed? Could I really make it through the harsh cold of fall in Maine? The overpowering mixture of excitement and panic began as I submitted my application, continued when I signed the enrollment form, and carried on even as I pulled into the driveway on the first day. Will these people be anything like me? What if I don’t make any friends?
I was the first person to arrive in my cabin, so naturally I picked the most comfortable bed and began to settle in. As I watched cabin-mate after cabin-mate file in through the door and drop their bags, the panic had not left me. I continued to question whether I had packed too much, not enough, or entirely incorrectly. I made casual small talk with the parents, introduced myself to the kids, and folded my shirts with timid awkwardness while wondering if this place would ever start to feel like home.
Looking around at the people I get to spend this semester alongside, I realize just how lucky I am. After overcoming the insecurity and discomfort of the initial few hours of knowing each other, by the second night we were new-old friends. Within the first few days we began sharing stories and recognizing each other’s individual eccentricities, sharing clothes and brainstorming how to re-arrange our furniture. As we all begin our second week of classes, the cabin has become a family. I find it difficult to imagine my life without Orchard House, and painful to think about leaving it. The people I watched file in the door that day are now some of the most important people in my life, and I adore them from the moment we wake up to when we say good night. What was simply a wooden building with eight empty beds to me a couple weeks ago is now a place of comfort and friendship- a true home away from home.
Looking back upon the main causes of internal conflict prior to my arrival, I can smile and consider them resolved. I get the unique chance to experience all that Chewonki has to offer me this semester, all the while enveloped in this new sense of family that we have created within Orchard, and which Orchard has created within us.
-Sydney Wilder, The Thacher School, MD.