As you could probably imagine, living as a semester student at Chewonki is like living in a bubble. I’m not sure what about it makes it seem so far away from the outside world, but there certainly is something that makes students of all backgrounds and places of origin feel like we are all plopped down in an alternate universe full of woodstoves, scrapers, and polarbears. Some people say that the difference lies in being at such a small school of only 42 peers. Others say that it is the connection to the nature of Chewonki Neck that is so different from their homes in the city or other parts of the country. Most people have something to say about the frequently vegan (yet delicious) foods that they would never even think to try at home. Whatever it is, everyone has something here that is so radically changed from their previous life that they have a feeling that Chewonki could be its own fully functioning ecosystem billions of miles away from where they are from. However, instead of actually being billions of miles away, my house is currently settled at 9.3.
Having lived in Wiscasset for most of my life, I for some reason assumed that Chewonki would be like an extension of my previous community. But that could not have been further from the truth. My grade at Wiscasset High School has roughly the same amount of students, I have grown up with small family farms in the area, and I even live on the same river that flows down past Chewonki Neck. With all these similar things between where I am from and Chewonki, I just kind of assumed that it wouldn’t be as big of a culture shock for me to come. This was really naive of me. All areas of my day are filled with things that are different from what I would be experiencing at home, even though home for me is within 10 miles.
The classes have the same number of people in them as my old school, but they are more engaging and challenging. The food is fresher and desserts are much more common than at home. The woods, though identical to the ones at my house, now have more meaning because I’ve learned the names of the plants and animals that make them up. The farms I get my food from seem much more present in my daily life when I get to wake up for farm chores every morning at 6:15 am rather than heading off to the grocery store once a week. The people are so diverse and different that it is hard to even compare them to people from back home. Every aspect of Chewonki creates a new way of doing things where I really do feel like I am in an alternate universe, but for me that universe was only 9.3 miles away the whole time.
-Maeve Carlson, Wiscasset Highschool, Wiscasset ME