by Diana Grandas, photos also by Diana Grandas
My brother and I have known about semester schools for the majority of our adolescent lives. Our camp offers one similar to Chewonki, so the concept was not entirely alien. I considered applying, but it never actually happened.
Midway through his sophomore year, my brother told me he wanted to go to Chewonki, which we had learned about from my cousin, who attended her junior year. I couldn’t believe he was actually going! Soon, he was all packed up and headed to the neck for Semester 51.
Through various phone calls before study hours and long conversations after his return, I learned about this special place. His gushing about the teachers, students, farm animals and the entire experience lead me to apply for the next fall. I had my doubts, as many people did during this process. How would I match up my classes from home? Would I be able to go back to tennis, a sport I love? Despite these doubts, I decided to attend. Anything that could make Sebastian so continuously happy would be worth anything I would have to sacrifice.
In the months leading up to my departure, I realized that I really didn’t know what I was about to go and do. I had heard stories, but there was no way I could actually feel the emotions attached to them because I had never experienced them myself. I heard names, but I did not feel how much love and trust were in between every person in the semester. I could listen to Sebastian talk on and on about one specific morning, but never fully understand what it meant to him.
Two weeks into my experience here at Chewonki, my eyes have been opened to the wonderful things my brother had spent six months telling me about. Walking to the farm as a cabin at 6:20 am for farm chores, having a meaningful conversation with staff members over lunch, and trying not to laugh too loud in study hours when realizing how out of proportion the map you drew for Spanish is are just a few things that brought me closer to understanding just what Chewonki is about. Before I came, I could not imagine, or even be told, everything that makes this place the way it is, but even in these two weeks, I have a greater understanding of what that is.
In my semester, I am the only one with an older sibling who has attended. While some may believe that this fact would allow me to be more prepared, this is not the case. Yes, I may have gotten tips on what to pack, but there was no way for me—or any of my semester mates—to know what was coming for us. It takes coming out and actually experiencing everything Chewonki has to offer to see its beauty. While it is a risk, it is one I am overwhelmingly happy I made.
Are you a younger sibling or a friend of a Chewonki Semester School alum? Are you hearing about Chewonki for the first time? Visit our website for more information, to request a brochure, and apply to our Semester School.