The Fall 2014 students posed the week-long CONCHtribution Push Up Challenge to the alumni during the week of October 12. If 70 alumni made a donation to CONCHtribution, the annual alumni giving campaign, in a single week, then the faculty would have to do a collective 2,014 push ups. At the end of the week, 75 alumni had donated which meant it was time for the faculty to drop and give the students (and alumni!) 2,014 push ups!
The Island School has been so great, but the term is already halfway over. It feels like yesterday I was prepping to set out on my 3-day kayak expedition with K2, and I’m now about to start getting ready for 8-day with K4. It’s crazy to think that I’m not going to see some people for 3 weeks, and by then we’ll only have another month left. I still have to look at this optimistically. Even though it feels like the term is almost over because of kayak, Parents’ Weekend and final academic weeks, I still have half the term and it’s going to be great. Up to this point, I’ve learned and grown so much, and I still have the best parts to look forward to. I’m really looking forward to 8-day kayak and the solo, the Down Island Trip, Parents’ Weekend and the Research Symposium. After a stressful 5 weeks of academics including an insanely stressful midterm week, I’m ready to lose those stresses. Kayak and Down Island will be great. I’ll be spending a lot of time with a small group of people and I’m really looking forward to getting to know all of them so well. At the beginning of the term I dreaded solo, but my peers have gotten me really excited for that. Academics afterwards will be great, as I will be carrying out my Human Eco project and learning about environmental issues in the ocean in Marine Eco, which I really care about. In research I’ll be finishing my presentation and practicing it, as well as having fun field days to catch yellow rays at patch reefs. And as far as Parents’ Weekend goes, I’m super excited for it and just can’t wait to spend time with my family here. I know they’ll love it. Even though I’m sad that I’ll be leaving everyone I’ve made friendships with here in about 50 days, I’m really looking forward to those 50 days and making the most out of them.
The past few weeks here have been challenging, confusing and exciting. It has been a big adjustment to go from seeing my family and friends every day to being almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. So far, I am enjoying this experience and becoming better acquainted with the place in which I live. Speaking of that, dorm life has been a big adjustment. Boys dorm is divided into two sides, North and South, with a common room in between. Our beds are all in the same room and spaced about two feet apart from each other in rows. Living all together in a confined space gives us the need to share responsibilities for keeping the dorm clean and free of pests. Recently one of my dorm mates “disposed” of a rat, named Despereux, that had been terrorizing our dorm for a while. It was a day of joy for the dorm but one of sadness for the loss of his young life. In his honor we hung the dustpan he was killed with in the common room as a memorial. Yesterday, we had a deep clean due to someone having the need to eat muffins in bed. We were very productive and finished with enough time to go on exploration. Throughout these last weeks our dorm has bonded and learned to live with each other. This will change as we leave for kayak and break off into separate groups. This will be a great change to our normal routine and we will get to know some people better than we do now. I am very excited for the second half of my Island School experience and I am prepared for the hardships and joys ahead of us.
The place seems to glow. This is one of the most beautiful buildings I have seen so far on my trip here. The church has a stained wood ceiling with golden fans. A stage with beautiful pink and blue ribbons wrapped around the banisters. The chairs are wide, soft and cream colored; their appearance plays off the beautiful designs on the carpeted floor. The music is even more beautiful than the colors of the building. It speaks to the soul, that music, flowing in and out of harmony with the surrounding earth. Making my connection with God more and more physical. I go to church all the time at home. Coming here without my church family was a big step for me. I know I need a connection with God while I am away and I found it here. The service starts as we all come together in prayer, bowing our heads I realize that there is only one God and that He connects us all. We start to sing. The songs are out of a hymn book written in the 1920’s so it took me a while to get used to all the songs. We sing and we recognize how God has moved in our lives this week. Then the pastor speaks a message that is always exactly what I need to hear. God is good and He has shown me a new way to be closer to Him even though I’m not with my friends at home.
Student Gavin Siegert chose to make a video about freediving for this week’s Student Update. Gavin has been working on his freediving skills with founder Chris Maxey and our other certified instructors over the past seven weeks.
When I think of Island School, there are a few words that always come to mind. The Bahamas, SCUBA diving, marine biology, beach, etc. One thing I’ve learned from being here is that there is one more word that should come to mind: academics. The majority of our days here are spent in class or doing homework. That work is not always the type that most high school students are used to, but it’s challenging nonetheless. With so many beautiful places and incredible things to do, hunkering down on Sunday, my one free day of the week, and writing a project proposal for my research project takes a lot of will power. One of the major difficulties is finding a balance between work and play. When everyone else is going out for exploration time, sometimes I need to stay behind for homework to get it done. Sometimes I have to do that a few days in a row, but I also have to remember to find time to get off campus, explore, and have fun. The great thing about Island School is that there are opportunities for adventure even during classes. With the right mindset, SCUBA diving for marine ecology or building a site-specific sculpture anywhere on campus for environmental art doesn’t feel like class, it can feel like an amazing way to spend a few hours. Taking advantage of every situation Island School offers is one way to make the workload and classwork not quite as difficult, and make the experience even more incredible.
The image of the first time I jumped into the warm blue water during our first field day is still plastered in my mind. Everywhere I looked was a deep royal blue, extending 600 meters below me into an unknown world our research is trying so hard to uncover. At first I was so nervous floating out in the water alone, but as the cage emerged from the bottomless blue pit I could see the 4 Cuban dogfish suspended in the cage, and all of a sudden that feeling of fear was replaced with awe and excitement. I watched as one by one my research advisor guided down the living sharks back to their home in the deep-sea. It is these moments in research that always keep me on my toes and ready to learn. These moments have also given me a love for what we are doing enough to keep my attention throughout our 3 hour research classes spent analyzing research papers and discussing the scientific method. Though it is easily our most challenging and stressful class here at the Island School, it is one that is already the most rewarding to me and so many of my other classmates.
Before coming to The Island School I had never gone for more than two weeks without seeing my friends and family. At the beginning of my time here, I didn’t miss anyone from home because there were so many new people around me. Still, I was excited for my first twenty minute phone time. Along with being excited, I was nervous dialing the phone to call home. So much had happened in just one week and I didn’t know how I could tell it all in twenty minutes, and explain the things that we do here that my parents and friends wouldn’t understand. As the phone rang, I realized how excited I was to tell all the stories of what had happened. My parents answered and after our happy hellos, we fell into a brief silence. I hadn’t expected this to happen, because I had so much to tell and didn’t know where to begin. I forced them to ask me questions and our conversation grew as I explained what morning exercise was, or as I told stories from 3 day kayak. My twenty minutes quickly came to an end and I had a mix of happiness and sadness as I hung up the phone. Over the following weeks I was always looking forward to my phone time, but as I began to talk to my friends I realized that what I found to be interesting at The Island School was fairly boring to my friends at home. I would want to tell the drama of morning exercise, but to my friends, hearing about an early morning run would be fairly boring. After phone times, I would have a hard time focusing because my mind was taken back to my home, and it took me awhile to arrive back at The Island School for study hours. For the most part I would want to talk longer on the phone and feel like I should have been allowed forty minutes or an hour to talk to people at home. But as my phone time high wore off I realized how much I enjoy my time here. I have begun to notice how I don’t feel as much of a need to talk to people at home, I just need those twenty minutes as a break.
Throughout the past four weeks, I’ve had trouble acclimating to this new place I now call home. Being from New York City, the Bahamian lifestyle and all other aspects of Eleuthera are very different from my normal routine. Usually there are tall buildings and bright city lights, but here there are SCUBA diving classes, 26 other bunkmates and watching Jaws in the ocean. With that being said, it does not mean that I am not enjoying this place. I think that we all had different reasons to come here. Yet, we all traveled to a foreign country in order to explore and experience this place for 100 days. It is in this idea that we have found an over-arching theme that threads the 51 students together. Even though I’ve been having a bit of trouble here, I have found solace in my peers and teachers. The community here is supportive and caring, and knowing that I have people here to support me is one of the greatest things I could have asked for.
Scuba diving has always seemed so exotic and foreign to me. I always thought of it as something for only professionals, and never really considered that it would be me breathing from a regulator underwater. Here at the Island School, however, it is incorporated right into the curriculum. As a result, I am now certified and dive regularly in the clear waters of the Bahamas for Marine Ecology classes. Every time I enter the water, I think of the stark contrast between the sciences I am exploring here versus the ones I would be studying at home. There, I would be sitting and taking notes at a desk: just about as far as you can get from exploring the bottom of the sea. I am constantly reminded of how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to attend the Island School, and to get the full experience of the Island of Eleuthera.
As I am writing this post, I am looking forward to a dive scheduled for this morning. Today, our class is focusing on fish around the patch reefs of a dive site called Tunnel Rock. Previously, we’ve observed coral, algae, and invertebrates in the same area. With six total dives under my belt thus far, I am excited for number seven and the ones that follow, especially the one on Parent’s Weekend with my Dad.
It was a hot Thursday afternoon as advisories from around the globe met to face off in the 2014 Advisory World Cup. Blistering heat, questionable music, ridiculous dancing and ineffective stretching made it a very unique scene, however, nonetheless competitive. Intentional community seemed to be making its way off the field as the games made their way towards the finals. The favorites appeared to be England and USA. In the semi-finals team USA dominated its opponent North Korea, and secured it place in the finals. In the other semi-final match England began at a strong pace however the unseen underdog Cameroon began to dominate late in the match. Unexpectedly Cameroon defeated England in a nail biting last minute goal. The final match was set and team USA prepared to take home the cup. Again though, tenacity and patience paid off as Cameroon finished team USA in a David versus Goliath match up winning 3-2.
As I immerse myself into the fourth week of Island School, I can say with confidence that my perspective is beginning to change. Cliché, but very true. I came into the Island School thinking I could handle any challenge hurled at me with ease; I was greatly mistaken. I was suddenly transported from a world where I knew everyone and everything that was going on around me to being in a completely foreign setting. The academics at home were something I could handle well; here, I have had breakdowns about my workload and grades. Now, Mom and Daddy, I know you’re reading this and thinking, “What the heck?” and trust me, it was my reaction too. But don’t worry, this is the good part. With these struggles I have begun to understand myself. I know that I am strong enough to handle the challenges, because I was capable of handling Greens Farms Academy, a rigorous but wonderful school, and I am confident that I will end my Island School term with a bang. I have become efficient at knowing my emotions and better communicating them, a skill I will need for the rest of my life. This place has made me a better person already and I am really excited to bring the new and still evolving “me” back home to you. I am absorbing new cultures and new experiences, which were the goals in the first place and the main reason I ever wanted to study abroad. I am proud of who I have become and I want you to know that I am happy here, despite any challenges. Thank you, Island School students and faculty, for shaping the new Samantha.
Last Thursday students kicked off the 5th Biannual Island School World Cup soccer tournament. The World Cup is an Island School tradition, bringing extended advisories together since Fall 2012. This year Cameroon took home the title beating out the USA 3-2. To view photos from the event click here.
There’s just something about looking out of your classroom window and seeing the ocean that makes you want to be at school. Maybe it’s a reminder of exploration time that is just hours away. Or maybe it makes you remember that your next marine ecology class you will be scuba diving. At the Island School we take full advantage of the ocean that is just a few steps away. So far, in the past twenty-three days I have not gone a day with out being in the water. Yesterday I went free diving to catch stingrays and the day before that I explored the underwater caves. Once a week all 51 students use the ocean for a morning run-swim. This morning I ran alongside a calm, crystal blue ocean as the sun rose to create a perfect pink horizon. For me the ocean is a reminder of where am I, and it helps me remember to take advantage of the opportunity I have here at the Island School.
When we first arrived in Green Castle for our first settlement day I was a little nervous. Despite having been to other settlements on the island before, I have never walked around with an Island School uniform. Wearing my blue polo shirt gives me a distinct label, and I wasn’t too sure how the local people would react. We walked around awkwardly for awhile saying hi to people here and there. On our way to the local grocery store we ran in to two guys, Phillip and Bolo. Characteristic of the Bahamas, they were the nicest people you can imagine and immediately began hitting us with questions about the Island School and ourselves. We talked for several minutes, and then walked into the air-conditioned grocery store to fill up on junk food and of course a Goombay Punch. We sat on the brick wall surrounding the community church and watched the silent streets of Green Castle, cars running by occasionally. Fast forward an hour and we are walking down the road towards the homes, hoping to see some people. We said hello to one woman and she introduced us to her son, who was just heading over to the court of the primary school to play some basketball. I was surprised when he asked us to play, but then again, I’ve never met people as nice as Bahamians. When we got to the court, we were soon followed by his friends, and a game of “21” quickly began. It was pretty clear that we (the Island School kids) were all a little nervous at first, but it was immediately replaced by pure happiness. It soon felt like I was playing basketball with my friends. There was never a dull moment and every second was filled with laughter. They’d hoot me when I was dribbling and when I missed, which was most of the time, they all chirped, “He got no form!” Christian is actually good and whenever he hit a 3 they all went nuts. I have always wanted to play with the locals, and I’m so glad that I accepted Will’s invitation to play with open arms, because if I hadn’t, I would never have been able to have this amazing experience. I feel like I have a totally new perspective of the people of Eleuthera. I was able to experience a small part of their lives first hand, and that was really special to me. Rather than watching them play from our car as we drove by, like I’ve done so many times before, I was able to a part of it. Even as short as it was, I felt like I had been accepted. I feel luckier than ever to be here, because of the amazing opportunities that have already presented themselves in my first few weeks here. Driving back to campus all sweaty and tired, telling other groups about our game, my excitement for next Saturday started to build up, and now I just can’t wait to go back and see our friends in Green Castle.
Coming to the Island School, I never truly appreciated some of the smaller things in my life. At home I had easy access to snacks, and would raid the kitchen for food anytime I became hungry. Here we have three large meals each day and gorp for a snack every now and then. The cravings start after a long day of classes, when exploration time begins. We anxiously bike to the marina store with soda, candy and chips on our minds. Chocolate has now become a luxury and every time I go to the store, chocolate is the first thing I buy. Dessert is scarce at the Island School besides an occasional cake for birthdays, so every last bite of chocolate is devoured (even if that means licking the wrapper). Not only is food something to savor here, but also because of the heat and our constant activity, water bottles are a necessity everywhere you go. Thinking back on my experience so far, I am starting to realize that I need to be grateful for the little things here at the Island School and to live in the present. It is hard to do this because of the busy schedule, but every now and then, I am able to stop and appreciate my beautiful home for the next few months.
One morning I noticed what looked like a small bug bite on my left elbow. It looked unusual but nothing too out of the ordinary. I decided to cover it with a Band-Aid and not think much about it. However, the more I ignored it, the more spots seemed to show up. After the third one appeared, I went to see Jai our medical director. I sat down, put out my arm and he looked right into my eyes and said, “this is impetigo”. I looked right back at him and said “I have no clue what that is”. I had a million questions buzzing around my head at once. How long do I have to wear long sleeves and long pants? How contagious is this really? Am I going to miss my dive today? Tom was in the room when I saw the doctor at the clinic. On our way out he asked me if I wanted to buy a cup on the way home. A little confused I said yes. I was still in shock I had a skin infection my second week at the school. On our drive back to campus we stopped at a little store with an older gentleman sitting on the porch. On the way into the store Tom asked the man if he had any cups. Still confused I followed Tom. We walked over to a freezer. Tom asked me if I like passion fruit. I nodded, he handed me a frozen plastic cup filled with passion fruit juice brown sugar and water. I started to laugh; now he was confused. I explained how I had no clue what he meant when he asked me if I wanted a cup. The cup was probably the best thing I have had while I have been here. Today is a week from when I was first told I had impetigo. I don’t miss it one bit.
This week marks our first academic week of the semester. It’s no longer name games and long talks on rules and expectations. We are finally in the swing of things. This week also marks the time when we will have to choose whether to run a half marathon, or swim four miles. As a group we are all experiencing a lot of emotions right now. It was a hard adjustment at first, but now everything is falling into place. This is our new home.
This year was not the first I was away from home on my birthday. Last year, it was the first Saturday class day at my boarding school, and my dorm sang me happy birthday and ate the cake while I was in the shower. Apparently they didn’t know who I was, being a new freshman, and assumed I was there. This year I had the good fortune of getting to celebrate my birthday at the Island School, and it was a Sunday! I got to sleep in and then lazily stroll to the dining hall for a mixed bowl of granola, chex, and cornflakes (which is really yummy). Then the whole school hopped on boats and zipped out to the sandbar. The sandbar is this isolated chunk of sand in the middle of the ocean surround by crystal shallow water. The weather was perfect, just a few stray white clouds. We frolicked in the water and some people played Frisbee. We went back for noon circle, and when we were supposed to sing the national anthem (which I did start singing) the whole school sang me happy birthday. After lunch I went on exploration time. First I went to the Marina store and then I went out with a group of friends to the golf cart graveyard, and abandoned kitchens and storerooms in the inner loop. We then went and found one of the Banyan trees. It was down an overgrown path where we had to dismount and walk, but when we found it, it was so cool and I was amazed by the strong and numerous branches. Later I hopped in current cut, but after drifting about ten feet down I heard thunder, and had to struggle back up to the start. At dinner there was supposed to be cake, but the kitchen ladies accidently locked my cake in the fridge and left, so no cake on my birthday again. It was okay though because we had it for lunch the next day and my birthday celebrations got to last a little longer, which was fine by me.
If you ask my mother what my favourite part about her is, she would tell you I only love her for her food – which might be partly true. And when I go to new places food is what I judge the hardest. Being at the Island School I thought I would not like any of the food and would be extremely homesick because of it. The cooking team here at the Island School makes each meal with such flavor and wondrous appeal, that I was shocked as my mouth erupted with flavor. The first full meal I had here at the Island really helped me to combat homesickness and I will forever be grateful to the cooking team for their meals.
It has only been fifteen days since we arrived in Eleuthera and started our journey at the Island School. It is so amazing to think how my opinions of this place have changed already. Since the beginning of my application process to the Island School, I was fully invested in training for the half marathon because I thought that I could never swim 4 miles. After two weeks I’ve already changed my mind about the swim and so many other aspects of this semester. Switching to swim track has made me so excited to accomplish something so incredible. I wake up excited to swim and see how far I can continue to push myself. Something at the Island School that I already love is when we combine swim track and run track into run-swims. Run-swims have become my favorite exercise even though they seemed so daunting before this place became my home. Before coming here I would never have imagined myself scaling a wall while watching the sunrise. It is actually crazy to think about all the things we do before the sun rises. We wake up with the stars and moon shining, gather around the flag pole at dawn to sing the Bahamian National Anthem in the dark, and are in the ocean swimming while the sun starts to peek out from behind the clouds. This morning in particular as we finished the anthem, there were streaks of raspberry pink coloring the morning sky. Each morning I wake up happy to be here and I can’t wait for the next 83 days.
Coming into the environment of The Island School was a difficult change. It’s something that’s very scary for the first couple of days. The vast amount of differences between The Island School and home change your perspective. At first the change is really difficult but I started to realize that the change is good and it will help me develop in life. So far it’s been an amazing experience and I’m ecstatic to continue my journey. I feel fully aware of the things that lay ahead that will be challenging. I feel ready for anything that crosses my path and I’m looking forward to exploring the island more. One of the best experiences I’ve had so far is playing basketball with the locals. It was fun to compete with them especially since they were very talented. It was a different way of communicating with them and it was easy to understand that in many ways their culture is similar to ours. They were all very open to letting me play and they were very friendly as well. The feeling of being welcomed into their game was great and I had a great experience shooting around with them.
The Island School is thrilled to welcome Fall 2014 to campus. Having arrived a little under three weeks ago, the whopping 51 students who make up the class of FA’14 are well on their way to fully settling in and making this new environment home for the next 100 days. With three-day kayak trips and SCUBA week completed and the first academic week drawing to a close, students are beginning to get into a regular routine. And with that regular routine will come the start of regular blog posts from our resident students this semester. Kicking off our first blog post, students reflect on their initial impressions during the first two weeks here.
Cheers to Fall 2014 and a fantastic semester ahead.
Having finally arrived at The Island School, I’ve realized the importance of the opportunity we all have. High school can be hectic. For many people it’s the most confusing time of their life. We ask ourselves, “What should I do with my life?” and “Who am I really?”. These are questions that, for me, are always hanging over my head. In a place like New York City, my hometown, there is a lot of pressure on high school students to succeed in their academics so that they can go to school and earn a good living. At The Island School, it’s very different. We are all equal. We share similar goals. We wear uniforms. We are a community. And for the next 97 days, we have the opportunity to give everything our all, make every moment count, and, most importantly remove ourselves from that overwhelming pressure we can sometimes feel. I’ve never been more at peace with myself and nature then when I rolled out of bed on day one, walked 20 feet to Boys Dorm Beach, and snorkeled my way to a ship wreck 100 yards off shore. All before breakfast.
Waking up in complete darkness can be very disorienting if you aren’t used to it. Personally, I am not familiar with this and I am in no way a morning person. At home, when I don’t have school, I wake up at noon and even when I have school, the sun is up by the time my alarm goes off. I’ve been at the Island School for two weeks and I still am not entirely fond of waking up before sunrise, but I have found silver linings. As soon as the first alarm goes off, my eyes dart open and I come face to face with nothing because it is pitch black in the bunk room. And every single morning I think there must be some mistake. The moments following my realization that I actually do have to get up are not the high points in my day. But once I’m outside, doing yoga, swimming, or running, I feel completely at peace as I watch the glowing orange orb of light emerge from the clouds. The Bahamian sunrise is nothing like anything I’ve ever seen; it’s the type of thing that would be the default screensaver of a Macbook or the cover of a National Geographic. In the moments I’m watching the sky light up, I forget about the fact that I’m about to do a run-swim, or about all the Marine-Eco reading I have to do. Seeing the Bahamian sunrise is a once in a lifetime opportunity if you’re lucky and I get to see it everyday.
It has been difficult adjusting to “the land of the sun and sea” for a kid from a cold, land locked state. I am not used to this type of heat. In Vermont it gets hot but not as humid as down here. The salt water is also different because when you get out you are still covered in salt. My one savior to all this is the outdoor shower. It is cold and rinses the salt and sweat off, leaving you feeling refreshed enough to run to bed. The outdoor shower also has the best view on campus. You can look into the horizon and sometimes the line gets blurred enough that the sand and sea look like one. The boys dorm north outdoor shower is the place to be.