When I first arrived at Chewonki, everyone shared the same exact feeling of “first day jitters,” and knowing that I wasn’t alone was the first of many comforts. In the first hours of the semester, the staff immediately introduced games to help break the ice. These included the classic, “Hi I’m [insert name] from [insert town], and I like [insert favorite food, place or outdoor activity]” as well as more complex activities that help welcome everyone into Chewonki’s tightly knit community. In addition to games, responsibilities contribute to a sense of independence and begin to ground us in this place. This morning I was taught how to properly handle hay-bales, for example. Having to take initiative for our own comfort – heating our cabins with wood stoves, caring for our food, managing our own laundry, is a satisfying feeling. Chores not only give a sense of independence, but also bring students and faculty closer together through a shared commitment to keeping the Chewonki environment thriving.
One might assume that cabins would group up and form cliques. This is only half-right. Cabin mates create that close family feeling when we’re heading to bed or waking up for farm-chores, but as soon as we leave our cabin for a meal or class, we’re greeted and welcomed by every other student and faculty member as if they’re a part of our family too. There’s a basic, strong connection with every being, both wildlife and human, on the Chewonki campus that is connected to the responsibilities of living here.
Even with people coming from all over the country with many different backgrounds, everyone has something in common and knowledge that they can share. Today, I helped recruit thirteen semester students to join our acapella singing group, The Decomposers. Some have never had any singing experience, but they felt welcomed enough to try it and see what they might learn or contribute.
Students can help start whatever group they’d like; we can just speak to a faculty member and they will fully support us in getting towards our goal, be it rock climbing on the weekends or book discussions. Personally, along with the acapella group, I’m trying to start a fitness group, which could include anything from weightlifting or cardio to relaxing yoga.
I hope to leave Maine Coast Semester with a stronger sense of positive self-reliance, and skills that will help with the rest of my academic life and beyond.
Wyeth, Brunswick High School, Brunswick, ME