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Island School and The Heroes Journey

May 14, 2012

The Island School Semester is filled with journeys. Students embark on their own, made up of the thousands of small individual journeys that happen each day here: the first run-swims, kayak trips, inner-loop explorations, settlement days. This place is blanketed with epic voyages, woven out of small journeys. In their Literature classes, students read Omeros that tells them: “in its travelling all that the sea-swift does it does in a circular pattern,” and learn about the Heroes Journey. Recently, we asked students to use this model to better understand and reflect upon their time at Island School. Today we feature these stories of of separation, initiation and return. Students consider their guides and mentors along the way, challenges, and how they have returned or will return, changed. So, as parents prepare to embark on their own epic voyages to campus for the upcoming Parent’s Weekend, enjoy these powerful stories of our own student heroes… (our apologies that not all student’s work is featured here. Many felt that their experiences were too personal to be shared in such a public venue, others, well… just have not turned them in yet).

Paul: I had been looking forward to this moment for years. It was one of the reasons that I wanted to come to The Island School in the first place. I had heard about solos many times before and it had always seemed so fun. Two days and nights by myself alone in the woods: Man versus nature with only myself to keep me company. I could build a fortress or write a novel. I had expected I would discover the meaning of life or think up the cure for a disease at the very least. The options had seemed limitless not a day before. But as I stood in the sand looking at the trees along Lighthouse Beach that I was to live in for the next two days, the reality of the situation started to sink in. I turned right and saw my companions walking far down the beach, being dropped off one by one. I searched my brain for thoughts to comfort myself, but came up empty. All I could think was that I was alone, and I was already bored of myself. I knew from those very first moments that this would be a very interesting two days.

Fast-forward two days. Lightning strikes so frequently the sky is like a strobe light. The thunder constantly booms. The wind whips the coastline, threatening to tear apart the shelter I built my first day of solo. I sit under my tarp, knees tucked up into my chest, every inch of my body moist with rain. I am cold, I am exceedingly tired, and I am outstandingly confused at this entire situation. I wait out the storm in a state that is a combination of fear and of exhaustion. My body does not know how to respond to its extreme fatigue along with my terrifying surroundings, so all I can do in sit still in a dormant state. I want nothing more than to be dry and safe and warm. The hunger in my stomach, fed only slightly by meager solo rations, tears at my insides. Not in my recent memory can I recall a situation in which I wished I were in civilization more.

When I open my eyes again, I am lying down. I notice that the sky is light, and the rain has reduced to infrequent pattering on the tarp overhead. The hunger and my dampness, however, have lasted the night. I remove my shirt because it is wet and sit up with my knees tucked to my chest in a position identical to the one I sat in the night before. I rock back and forth and the rain picks up. Thoughts swirl through my mind, questioning my sanity, wondering if I died in the night, asking myself if perhaps I miscounted the days, and this morning is only day two, with a whole day left. I sit there for what feels like hours. Will they ever come? Will I ever be rescued? Just as I think that I hear a rustle in the bushes to my left. I ignore it, but then hear my name softly whispered. I turn and see my kayak trip companions, standing on the beach smiling at me, all of them clearly coming from nights just as miserable as mine. Though I know somewhere in the back of my mind that we are trying to maintain a vow of silence, I let loose a “THANK GOD!” once I realize that I have been saved. They walk over and I hug each of them. As we gather together, I reflect to myself about how I cannot wait to return to civilization, how at this point in my life I appreciate being dry and safe more than I ever had. When asked to describe in one word a to summarize what I learned on my solo, I already know before I say it: “Appreciation.”

Amnahir: I felt so stressed the entire week before I left to come to The Island School.  It was the last week of the second trimester at my school, so I had to take a lot of tests just for that reason.  I also had to make up all of the work that I was going to miss when I came here and then I had to finish all of the pre-semester work that The Island School had assigned.  Due to the stress from work, I didn’t worry at all about the people that I would have to be spending the next three months with.  It wasn’t until I sat down on the plane next to Natalie, that I began to worry about how I would fit into the community. Waiting at theNassau airport was so challenging for me, I was never the most outgoing person in the world especially when meeting many people for the first time.  I was lucky enough to have my mother there for support in case I needed it and she gave me the motivation to try to talk to everyone there.

Once we arrived at the Island School Campus and everyone started to get to know each other better, I became so much more comfortable with people.  I no longer had my mom physically there to motivate me to continue to talk to people, but I know her memory kept me more motivated, while my enthusiasm for making friends made me to try to get close to the other students.  As the semester has progressed I have become so much closer to every student here.  I have become closer to some students rather than others, but I love everyone who lives here.  My closer friends have enabled me to become even closer to others because I have more stability since I can always rely on them if needed.  As the semester has progressed, so has the workload.  At my sending school I am assigned more work than I am here, but our days atIslandSchoolare so packed with fun activities that I am twice as tired when study hours begin.  Also due to the fact that I cannot stay up as late as I need to doing work, I have become much more time efficient.  The faculty had played a large part in keeping me focused and on task, but now, since the semester is more than halfway done, I am able to keep on task without having to be reminded.

I believe that when I return home, these skills will very much be beneficial for the activities I do there.  The long-lasting friendships that I have created here will remain intact when I return home.  In the past, I have had difficulties keeping the friendships that I made once I no longer saw the person.  But I believe that I will always be friends with the otherIslandSchoolstudents.  I believe that I will also keep the ability to make such friendships, which will be very beneficial for my future.  Time management and staying on task will be very helpful for the rest of my life.  I will always have to do work, and the ability to get the work done well and fast will be most valuable.

Dana: We processed in silence. I wanted to take my flip-flops off and let my feet sink into the sand, but the dry bag in my hand and the drom digging into my shoulder detoured me. Sand pipers scurried across the ground, chauffeuring our group down the beach. Through a nod or wave, we gave unspoken farewells as our group dwindled one by one. The ocean lapped up the beach, its foaming mouth trying to eat the sands. As we came to the next spot, I knew this time I would be the one leaving the group. Turning, Nadine first pointed to me and then spread her hand open to the line of trees.

I threw my bags down and assessed the area. Nothing stood out about it in comparison to the rest of the beach. As I made my way back to the cluster of trees, I noticed a slightly raised pile of sand. Three tan, sparsely speckled eggs lay there. Without thinking I picked one up and inspected it. The egg was warm and had some weight, but looking around, the mother was nowhere to be found. I placed the egg back down. Further exploring my solo spot, I wacked my way back into the bush. To my dismay, there were no coconut trees. The first day, I kept on waiting for the night to come, but then during the night I kept waiting for the light of day. Trying to kill time. But by the last afternoon a calm came over me and I really thought how I have changed as a person and the semester.

I got up with the sun that last morning. The sandpiper was sitting on her nest. Morning Mama. I untied the tarp and hammock I had set up, readying myself to go. One by one, we rejoined the pack. Once again, silently processing down the shore. We had changed over the forty-eight hours. Some people were a lot tanner. A few peoples facial hair had grown out. But beyond the physical alterations, there was something that had changed within all of us. Each of our experiences had been different, but we had a common bond of the experience itself. Walking down that beach, I reviewed some of my revelations that I had come to on my solo. I know that I don’t want to go to college until I know what I want to in life. I don’t know how, but I know I want to make a difference in the world somehow. After that I experience, I that that that’s possible.

Felipe: We left on a beautiful morning to an eight-day adventure, that will shape us personally and make us remember the Island School for the rest of our lives. We were excited to begin our trip, but we all knew about the terribly bad weather that was forecast. Contrary to what one would expect in theBahamas the forecast was completely accurate and the weather was incredibly bad for the first three days, making kayaking completely impossible. The weather was rough and the situation was tense, but I knew this was the perfect preparation for my real journey; my complete separation from the community, my solo.

We woke up the sixth day of kayak to a perfect sunny day in lighthouse beach. We packed our tents up, ate a quick breakfast, and went all together up to the lighthouse where we would all together say our last words for forty-eight hours. We went down all together in perfect silence and one by one each one was dropped in a part of the beach we had just admired, with a tarp and a bug net and in my case no food. I had a very active first day, by getting coconuts, floating with my floater (which was my luxury item), writing from time to time, and even running around the jungle. I slept like a baby, but I woke up on sunrise, devastated with an incredible necessity for food. I barely got strength to get to the beach, where I fell flat on my face for hours. I could not move, and my mind could not stop thinking about food.  Time seemed to have stopped and all I could do was lie there with nowhere to go, but with no worries in my mind. As the day went by I decided to write everything I would think or do, and soon I realized that I could have kept writing forever, which just demonstrates that what I thought had been a boring day, in fact had been one of the most productive days of my life.

Had an awful last night with the bugs, which was the last part of my journey. I woke up, literally crawled to the beach from my just destroyed shelter, and saw the rest of the crew walking down the beach in complete silence, and one by one we were all picked up, and taken to our the elevated light house stop where we broke the silence, and where I saw back on how crazy the experience had been. Solo had made me appreciate even the smallest things in life. Since when I am in difficult situations I compared then back to my experience, and it all always leads me to believe that they could be worst, that they could be solo.

Shell: “Good morning beautiful girls of south, it’s6:10, you have 20 minutes until circle. It’s time to get up.” My days of using an alarm clock are no more, every morning I awake to my Bunkmate getting another day started for me. After her voice woke me from my sleep I realized what had to happen next. I didn’t want to believe it was about to happen again. No, please don’t make me do it! I can’t, I wont make it, please! I swear I’m just going to stay here safe and comfortable in my bed and not go to morning exercise. It’s official this swim tracker is going back to bed, I thought to myself as the lights flicker on and the idea of sleep slips farther and farther out of reach. Then comes the shuffling of feet and the loud thuds of the ladies of Girls South descending from their top bunks. A door or two opens, then slams, simultaneously slamming the window letting me back into my sleep shut. Now my sheets are off, my feet hit the floor and I get ready for what seems will be a bore.

Swim cap and goggles in my hand, I sing the Bahamian National Anthem, promptly at6:30am. The idea of doing anything “promptly at6:30am,” is quite possibly the most foreign concept ever to grace my head. Yet here I am day after day. Before I came here I knew what I would be getting into with morning exercise but this is rough. After the grumblings of some tired teenagers, including me, making their way to the boathouse, I plunge into the warm water of Girl’s Dorm Cut. Still convinced I wont be able to finish, my nerves kick in and I start to swim in the shallow water. I can see my swim buddy Sterling swimming strong beside me and notice the shades of yellow, orange and pink rising behind me. You would be surprised how much a great swim buddy and the most beautiful view on an early morning exercise ever, would keep a girl calm despite swimming past a barracuda. Wait, what I’m already back? It’s already 7:30 and I managed to finish my swim keeping all my limbs in tack?

Next a little chores, some personal space, breakfast, a hard set of classes and a few other things fill my day. Constantly I am being pushed outside my comfort zone and challenged at all times of the day at Island School. Maxey told us at the beginning of the semester “to do something everyday that scares you.” This quote has been on replay everyday since then in my head. For some people, getting up at6:30 amto exercise with your friends is no big deal. For some people, giving presentations on Conch Research to a boathouse full of people is no big deal. Each day here I feel I’m closer and closer to being one of those people. All sorts of things, even as routine as swim track to extremes like solo or intimidating research presentations have been scary obstacles that I have overcome this semester. In my attempt to follow Maxey’s quote and push myself beyond my comfort zone to do these things, I’ve finished them with a better view of my ability to push myself. I’m finding things once intimidating to me easier and having to stretch myself further than I ever thought possible to do something everyday that scares me here at Island School.

Dinner circle ends with a quote, the stars come out then quiet fills a vibrant campus. I brushed my teeth and with no hesitation hop right back in my bed. Then I’m out like a light. If you ask the girls in the dorm, I’m sure you’ll hear a funny story of that night’s installment of sleep talking provide by Yours Truly. And then “Good morning beautiful girls of south, it’s6:10, you have 20 minutes until circle. It’s time to get up.” Every morning my favorite Bunkmate, Tai, unknowingly has the first line in my daily hero’s journey, chronicling the best memories I’ll have from Island School that pushed me past my comfort zone and into realization about my own strengths.

Sterling: I left the dock in my kayak about mid morning and positioned myself in the front of the group, because I was chosen for one of the leaders of the day to lead our group to the first camp sight of the trip.  As we paddled along the shore the thoughts of excitement and nervousness griped deep in the gut and the thought of not seeing more then one forth the student body was realized strange.  Somehow I just didn’t care about anyone or anything I was leaving an didn’t care about anything that had happened.  I didn’t care about any thing except what was going to happen in the next eight days. Day one, two and three passed with lot of rain and wind.  We battled the weather the first day but two and three we waited it out.  The morning of the fourth day we set off again to paddle the longest leg of the trip and arrived at the final destination.   Then one long day before the two must relaxing days of my life, solo.

After getting ready for solo we had a brief and left for our solo spot in silence.  Once assigned my solo spot I tried to make myself at home, making myself a swing, a hammock and a shelter.  Two days of living in silence, two day living with no food, two days living with out interacting with other humans was far from anything else I have ever done.  I have been alone in nature before but not to this extent and never, not knowing what to do. This new and different experience alone gave me time to just think and not worry about what was coming next.  When the day came to go back I was excited and dreading the return at the same time.  I know that when we returned to camp we would be packing up to go back to school campus and I would be reintroduced to everything that drove me to want to leave.

I was griped with the mixed feelings on the return, didn’t I want to be with people or did I not want to, did I want to leave a place of peace and go to a place where frustration grid at every corner?  No really. In the end I was glad the journey was over but wished there was another one to leave on, just to get the feeling of not having to be concerned about what would happen the next day.

Tamara: “I just want to go back home.” This sentence was uttered while I was on an eight day kayak trip around the southern tip of Eleuthera and when I said “home” I wasn’t referring to my house in Colorado. Instead, I was picturing the large rooms with 13 beds stacked around the edges each occupied by a girl with a unique personality.  How could I be expected to leave a scenic campus filled with people I had come to love and objects I relied on for basic performance daily? It wasn’t my choice to embark on a journey into the wilderness ofSouth Eleuthera and I certainly didn’t want to be separated from any of the students, but the whole experience was something I expected myself to take in strides and then before I knew it I might be back. So with this attitude in mind and a paddle in my hand, I was prepared to embark on the most difficult journey I have ever been on in my life.

I had begun my trip with such optimism and yet I was depressed when I was awoken at5 amto get into lightening position by the rolling boom of an approaching thunderstorm. I was sleeping in a puddle and the pouring rain wasn’t just outside the tent. There was a foul stench of sweat and grime floating into my nostrils and I was itchy from the small bug bites coating my entire body. I believe that the worst part was the feeling of being damp everywhere. It was me and three other girls crouched on our life jackets listening to the continuous downpour and waiting for the storm to pass. We snapped at each other in groggy voices raw from sleep but we were all thinking of our homes. For some this meant campus but others took it a step further to the house they had grown up in. The one thing we all had in common was the difficulty of the trip. I thought that I would never be able to go on with the expedition and we were only on day 3. I was sore from kayaking and sleeping on the hard ground, I was exhausted from being constantly surrounded by people every second of my days, and I didn’t think that I would be able to make it through the approaching 24 hours with my sanity. Still, when out in the wild it is difficult to just give up and go home.

I had to push through. That 4th day was torturous due to the feeling of never being dry and being immersed in people who didn’t feel any better than I was. When I finally saw the sun for the first time that day I was so excited and I took advantage of the warming rays by hanging my damp clothes out to dry. As a group, we also erected a shelter fabricated with palm fronds, logs, and spare fishing rope.  We ate more than we had eaten the entire trip through sending our time cooking and we found the time to hike to a road as a possibility of evacuation for the following day. The next days were tough as well but compared to the storm they were a piece of cake. Before we knew it we were reunited with the other kayak groups and sleeping in our soft beds once more. But even though I had returned home, I felt so happy that I would never have to go through something as tough again in my life. Every experience is a lesson and I have learned not to take my home for granted wherever that may be as well as that every obstacle is able to be overcome.

Francisco: It all began on a calm morning on lighthouse beach. After I had finally settled into the routine of Kayaking everything began to change. Just the previous day I had been exploring and swimming around. As I ate my last bites of granola all I could think about was the unbearable silence that was coming. When Brady and Megan gathered us all to begin our solo experiences I was so nervous I could hardly think. It all went by in a split second. Before I knew it we had all taken our vow of silence and were beginning to walk down the long winding beach. All I held on to for hope was the last few seconds I would spend with people. That hope was abruptly shattered when Brady stopped at the first Solo spot and without hesitation pointed at me and smiled. Although I was nervous I nodded and stepped towards my spot setting my bags down. I watched as the rest of the crew walked away into the distance.

I spent the first hour setting up where I would stay for the next 48 hours. I searched for at least half an hour for a place to set up my hammock only to find that I had left my hammock and only brought a bug net. This setback was only the first of my troubles. After that I found a place to lay my sleeping bag, and waited for my food, tarp and bug net to be delivered. Once my care package arrived I felt the need to eat so I immediately consumed my apple and threw away my block of cheese because I have always disliked it.  I decided to save my bagel only after realizing how little food I had left only an hour into my solo. I spent the rest of the day sitting on the beach thinking and writing in my place book.  I went through some trouble with keeping track of time and finding a place with no burrs on the ground to sleep. As night fell I could only think how easy that day had been and fell a sleep almost immediately.

The next morning was when everything began to go downhill. I woke up with one thought on my mind, food! I searched for my bagel but could not find it any-where. I finally caught a glimpse of the plastic zip-lock bag hiding in the bushes next to my sleeping area. When I picked it up, it was completely empty except for the few remnants of cheese and bagel whatever the horrible creature that took my food decided to leave.  I was so overcome with hunger all I could do was sit, no other thoughts crossed my mind until I suddenly reached a point where I was no longer hungry. After several hours of just sitting on the beach and writing I saw the sun was almost setting. At the same time I noticed that it was becoming very cloudy and I concluded it would rain relatively soon. So I put on my rain jacket and prepared for the rain. Little did I know I could never have prepared for what was to come. It began slow and steady, but then the rain got stronger and lightning and thunder where common. The rain did not stop throughout the entire night or morning. My tarp was useless and I just sat in lightning position huddled under my tarp until dawn. After what was probably the hardest night of my life, I could only think of being reunited with my friends on Kayak. As I sat on the beach waiting the rain slowed but was not gone altogether. I was wet and shivering waiting to be picked up soon being that I was the first dropped off. After an hour of waiting I was becoming desperate looking down the beach trying to see if Brady was on her way. I saw nothing. Then I turned and look the other way only to see the entire group walking in my direction. I quickly grabbed all my bags and my tarp and stood up waiting. When they finally picked me up all I could do was laugh hysterically out of the joy of finally being able to speak and interact with people again.

Taylor: The morning of February 27, I “awoke” from a night of no sleep. Churning inside of my head were a mix of emotions. Excitement, anxiety, happiness, and despair. I was entering a whole new world, and this world was called The Island School. I was leaving my home and loved ones, and was quickly thrown into a place they told me would soon feel like home, and was surrounded by new faces. Little did I know, I was about to embark on one of the most difficult, fulfilling, and important journeys of my entire life.

The first obstacle to overcome in this excursion was simply stepping out of my comfort zone. Pushing myself to run four miles, to learn how to SCUBA dive, and create relationships with people I hardly knew. The first few weeks ofIslandSchoolwere filled with much sweat, tears, and new experiences. I missed home dearly, and found myself counting down the days. But as each day drew to an end, the love I had for this place grew. I began to become comfortable around my peers, and truly loved my new home and family. All of a sudden, a new hardship was sent our way: 8 day kayak trip. Sand crunching in our food, sitting in lightning position for two hours in a soggy tent, getting sea sick from kayaking for three straight hours. This trip truly pushed us all to our own individual limits. Then we were sent out on our forty eight hour solos. A time to reflect, scream, cry, build, simply whatever we felt like. This experience is when I truly realized how much I have transformed since coming toIslandSchool. I thought a lot about how greatly my view of the world has changed, and how my priorities have changed. Mostly, I realized the things in life that are truly to important to me.

It feels as if I’ve been living in a dream the past three months, and I simply do not want to wake up. Leaving this stimulating and challenging environment will begin a whole new part of my journey, which may be even more challenging then the beginning. I will work to apply all I have learned here at The Island School, and make changes in my everyday life. I will forever think about the faces that so quickly became my best friends, and the challenging experiences that have truly help to shape who I am, and who I want to be.

Alexia: Sitting in my 11th grade homeroom at Central Eleuthera High School, I quietly waited for our guest speaker to arrive. Having heard about The Island School many times before, I felt prepared to listen once again to a presentation given by the BESS scholars on The Island School program. They arrived right on time, and quickly gave my class a 10-minute slideshow on their experience at The Island School. As I observed the presentation I paid careful attention to everything they had to say about their experience and wished I could experience it also. As soon as I got home I talked to my mom about the scholarship and decided it be right that I apply.  I sent in my application as soon as I could and waited in anticipation for a reply from The Island School. My mom saw the letter of acceptance before I did, and was extremely excited and proud when she told me the great news. As I continued my high school education I thought the time would never come for me to attend The Island School, but it came before I knew it. Before I knew it I was looking at the packing list checking and re-checking my luggage to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. Once all my bags were packed we loaded them into the car, and began our drive. When we entered the entrance to The Island School and I got out of the car, I knew that split second that my entire world would be shifting during the next 100 days. Looking around, my mom and I went on a short tour of the campus and before I knew it she was pulling out of the driveway, leaving me to begin my new journey.

During the beginning of the semester, 49 students along with myself were told that there would be many times that we will be taken out of our comfort zone, and put into our freak out zone. At first I didn’t know what this meant, but after spending nearly 75 days at The Island School, I know exactly what they were trying to portray. TheIslandSchoolhas provided me with numerous obstacles that I’ve had to over come. From learning to live with 26 girls, to completing a run-swim, to surviving my solo, I have been put in my freak out zone. These obstacles have not only help me to figure out more about myself, but also help me to realize that I am so capable of more than I give myself credit for. A great example is my 8-day kayak trip. I’ve never me one to be fond of kayaking, but this trip made me love it. The whether conditions were perfect up until we arrived at lighthouse beach. It was not terrible whether at the time so we decided it was okay for us to go on solo. I spent 6 total hours on my solo, with rain, cold and wind. During my solo I attempted to build myself a shelter. When it didn’t work the first time, I didn’t give up, I simply looked at the mistake I was making and made it better. I was able to build something to keep myself a bit out of the rain, but I was still cold. After a while of sitting under my shelter I heard Ashley’s voice in the distance. I darted out of my shelter and sprinted to find her. When I caught up to her, she informed me that they were taking us off of solo because the whether conditions were forecasted to continue for another day or two. Ashley and Justin picked us all up from our solo spots and we went back to our camp spot to collect out belongings and clean up the area to prepare to hike out to meet our ride back to campus.

Amelia: It was the night before I left the Berkshire School and I was scared out of my mind and confused at the same time. I suspect that is what caused all my confusion; sitting in my bed, knowing that the next day at this time, I’d be on a plane to the Bahamas to have what everyone told me was ‘The best experience I’d ever have,’ but the ‘hardest thing I’d ever do.’ Before I knew it, I was sitting on the plane, turning my phone off for the next three months and waving goodbye to my regular and monotonous life. It wasn’t much to wave goodbye to considering I felt that I went unnoticed. I was always comfortable there and because of that, always bored and thinking about the past or the future, never in the present. I was never good enough at anything, always mediocre, and always okay with it. I never stood out anybody that I knew of.

The things we did were alien to me, the resource center, no Google, waking up to go for a swim and actually pushing myself,  being able to bike everywhere I could go. Counting off in a circle and singing an anthem of a country I didn’t know much about. Snorkeling behind a spear fisher for class, and collecting my own data for research to analyze brought me out of a zone where I was always thinking of the past and the future and I was finally slipping into a mindset where I could enjoy every stroke of my swims, step of my runs, discussions in class, and the countless meals I spent with the people I’d be able to soon call my best friends. My peers were the ones who were able to guide me into feeling that I was enough for the people around me and that I had a strong presence in the community.  I’m ready to take that person home with me.

Annie O: My bags were packed, stuffed full of camping gear, scuba gear, and athletic clothes. Hugging goodbye to family and friends brought tears to my eyes. The car was now packed and ready to go. I watched as my house faded from sight, my “normal life” faded along with it. The sleep was still heavy on my eyes as I left, but I am too nervous to sleep in the car. The ride to the airport seemed short, getting there in plenty of time to make my flight. I was ready to go. I give my last goodbyes to my family, and I go through security, it was like stepping into a parallel universe; I was now on my own. I board 2 planes before I reachNassau. It was like walking into a crowded room, and feeling completely alone. I meet a few of my fellow classmates, an awkward hello and trying to remember their names.  After spending about an hour with them, I started to feel completely comfortable. Finally, we board another plane and land on theIsland ofEleuthera. All 49 students board a big yellow bus, ready to arrive at our final destination: The Island School. I see the blue roofs, the white buildings, and the turquoise ocean. I am officially and Island School student.

The weeks went by like hours, the months like minutes. Time is beginning to feel warped. It feels like it is the sand running through my hands, the wind blowing it back into the earth. With each passing moment I was more out of my comfort zone than I had ever been in my life. I was being pushed in every emotional, physical, and mental aspect. I will get up and run 8 miles. I will ask questions about my lifestyle that had never crossed my mind. But this will all end. Time is my greatest challenge. I do not know if I will accomplish everything I hope to here with a short amount of time left. I wish time would stop moving so fast so I can catch my breath. I want to freeze the moment, bask in it, and appreciate it. The challenge of my experience here at the island school is beating time.

Throughout this experience it has helped me to know I am not in this alone. I have my friends now. I came here one person, but after an experience like this I feel as if I am no longer just 1 person, but a member of a community of 49. My classmates here are my family. They push me harder than anyone I have ever known.  When I am down I know I can count on them to bring me up. When I am happy I know I have someone to share my happiness with. They are pushing me to become the person I want to be.  I feel more at home here in girl’s dorm than I have in a while. I love the smell of dirty clothes, vomited from the suitcases underneath our beds. I love the old white curtains covering the early morning sunrise. I love knowing that all the people here are just like me, my other halves. I have become a better person from knowing them, and hope to grow from the things they have taught me about myself.  My normal life seems to have faded from my view forever, and now there is no going back.

Brandon: I woke up on that cool morning of February 27th, energized, hungry, excited, scared and pressured. Knowing that this will be the last day I will see my family members and friends for the next 3-4 months. This feeling was one like no other but I just told myself “It’s going to happen Brandon, so prepare yourself”. I paced around the house, packing my bags and looking at items in and around my house that had moments, memories and events engraved in them. Containing history I will miss seeing through their glassy and dull surfaces. The phone rang and a voice asked “Are you ready?” and after I answered “I guess.” my mother replied “ I will be there in about 15 minutes.”. I still couldn’t believe this was happening. All the feelings and emotions I had woken up with were back, pounding at my soul. I used my last few minutes at home wisely, calling some of my friends to say my last goodbyes and that I will miss them. While talking to one of my best friends I heard a car horn. It was time. My heart dropped but there was nothing I could do now so I carried my bags to the car and placed them inside. I went back inside to grab my iPad, and to tell my Dad goodbye. After which, I was gone. After going through the whole Airport Security system and waiting on my flight, all I could think about was all my friends back home, all the parties and events I will be missing and who is going to miss me. When the words of the Airport attendant said, “Now boarding Flight 308 from New Providence to Rock Sound, Eleuthera” my heart turned cold, shutting away all emotions and mentally preparing myself for what was to come for the next 3 months. The minute I had step foot on that place my journey had begun.

After arriving to Rock Sound and then being transported to The Island School, a place like no other, I quickly started to get settled in, making new friends, analyzing person’s behaviors and formulating my plan on how I will survive in this place. Luckily they supplied us with a guide, a mentor, an advisor. Someone that will look out for us, making sure we felt safe and comfortable physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Besides this assigned guide, there were a lot more guides along my journey here at The Island School, ranging from the kitchen ladies, to faculty, to researchers over at CEI. On this journey I have encountered a few challenges. And so far I have overcome most of them but there are some more to come. One of those challenges involved me getting up in the front of a large group of people and speaking. This was something I hated doing and do almost everything in my power to avoid doing. But with a lot of motivation and encouragement I overcame this challenge. Week after week new challenges would come up but I would continuously knock them down. All for one main to goal, to gain as much as I can from this program and to make it back home stronger, wiser, and more experienced. Getting accustomed to the kind of work and grading they do here at The Island School was another challenge I had to overcome because it was something I was not use to. The academic work was something I had to get use to and become open minded to other people’s ideas was a challenge but goal I had to accomplish. Halfway into the semester, one of the more heightened activities came up, 8-Day Kayak. Before this inner-journey, I thought to myself “ What kind of human beings would want to paddle kayaks for 6 days and spend 2 days on a beach alone, with barely any food and entertainment?” The morning I left for my 8-Day Kayak I knew I was in for some surprises and challenges I will get through one way or another. Day after day I paddled and coped with the conditions we had to live in on the trip. On the 2 day solo I made myself a shelter, something I had never done before, gathered and opened 14 coconuts and enjoyed them. My solo was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my entire life. After reaching back to Island School from my 8-Day Kayak, I let out a sigh of relief, knowing that I had just done some stuff I never thought I could or would ever do. I felt so good about myself. Nearing the end of the semester we are being assigned a lot of final projects and work. These are challenges that have come up but I know I will have to accomplish to finish this program successfully. One of my only challenges left in this semester is the “Super Swim” which is a 3.6mile long swim at the end of each semester. I was nervous about doing it earlier in the semester but now it’s like ‘whatever’. Either I do it or not but eventually the ‘Super Swim’ will come and go, whether I finish or not.

The only thing I feel that is standing between me and going home is the ‘Super Swim’ and that is something that I will overcome so that I can successfully make it home and make myself proud. After the last day ofIslandSchooland I step foot back on that warm dusty rock I call home, I will just let out a sigh of happiness. Happy I conquered so many challenges, accomplished so many goals and that I am now a better and stronger person. Stronger in a  physical, mental, spiritual and emotional sense. Then I will lay my head on my pillow and start another journey.

Joe: My “hero’s journey” was my eight day kayak trip.  During my eight day I had guides that helped me through various obstacles.  When eight day was finished I brought back many valuable lessons.  My guides/mentors for eight day were Rob, and Christy.  Over the span of eight days I feel like I got closer and connected more with them than I had before, and they also helped me through my obstacles and problems along the way.  One of the ways they helped guide me and keep me on track was by being role models for the group.  They were always composed and always acted with equanimity in times of despair.  This helped me in times of my obstacles because I looked up to them and thought, “Well if they can be positive through this, so can I.”  One time Rob and Christy showed leadership was when the weather was poor, and people were feeling dismayed, but they were happy or at least acted happily and made extra food to share with us.  Another time Rob was a mentor to me was when we went spear fishing and I saw a very large barracuda creeping around after us and he told me I would be fine and helped me to overcome my fear.  Something else I viewed as my guide was my kayak, The Vomit Comet (The Vomit Comet got its notorious name from its grotesque coloring).  I view The Vomit Comet as my guide because it was my form of transportation for the eight days out at sea, and I had to really understand the way it worked in order to travel efficiently.  It taught me patience due to the fact it did not come equipped properly with a rudder, it also taught me to deal with my frustrations.  It taught me these things because as hard as I tried to control it and make it do what I wanted on command it had a mind of its own and let the sea decide its main flow.  I had to learn to be ok with this and work around it, or with it to harness its flow to my advantage.  The way it was an easy thing to overcome was because Rob had “The Leaky Lady” which was kayak that leaked and he never once complained which gave me inspiration.   The Vomit Comet is an awesome kayak and I will always see her as a guide rather than a piece of equipment.

Through my eight day kayak some challenges presented themselves and I overcame them.  One of the largest challenges I had to overcome was the small rations of food that were given.  I eat a large quantity of food because I am a growing boy and I also get low blood sugar accompanied by a cantankerous attitude when I am not fed.  Another challenge I had to overcome was the fact my kayak did not have rudder.  This was a kayak that was hard to control because it would turn on its own and required my overcompensation turning and controlling it.  It made me stronger and I was proud to have such a rebellious kayak.  The peak of my hardships was the forty-eight hour solo.  This was the peak of my obstacles because of the low portions of food and the fact that I haven’t been alone for that long in my whole life.  This experience was accompanied by dry heaving, and floating in and out of consciousness.  Although this was where my hardest times were this is also where I got the most character.  This was where I was able to bring back things to The Island School, then eventually Home.

My whole eight day kayak trip especially solo taught me many valuable lessons and I was able to get a lot out of the experience.  The main thing my character achieved was a genuine appreciation for the small things.  I also got a more well rounded perspective of my peers, and I was able to really understand them and their character.  My connection with Christy, and Rob was strengthened more than it had previously been.  The final thing I got out of this journey was mental strength and being able to break barriers simply with my mind.

Lauren: With the sun rising over the factories and the morning commuters with their Dunkin Donuts, my dad and I drive along the cluttered highway to theNewarkInternationalAirport. 6:30 am.  Do they realize that I am on my way to a world free of Dunkin Donuts or morning traffic or smoggy factories for three months? Not able to see my family or be connected to the world in any way for three months? They don’t notice, but as my dad and I keep driving and discussing my flight information, it’s all I can think about.  In some ways it is relieving and exciting to wake up to a blood red grapefruit-colored sunrise over the Exuma Sound instead of what I see at my home in New Jersey, but cherishing my dad’s voice right now, our last conversations before isolation for months, and the continuing burn of my farewell with my mom an hour before makes me want to just keep driving, never turning off the busy highway for a plane, a new journey, or ever leaving home.  Just keep driving.

As I walked off the Bahamas Air plane in Eleuthera, Bahamas with my new friends that I eager asked questions about their lives and accepted “Wow, so like you have seen Snooki?!” on the bus ride to The Island School, I was glad I had turned off the highway for the big airplane into this new world.  It felt like the longest drive of my life from the airport to campus, but my fellow classmates and Brady were all there to make me feel at home and share in my excitement! As we turned a bend, I saw the dark blue, wooden fish sign with the words “The Island School Cape Eleuthera” etched on it.  My eyes widened and heart pumped as we turned and all of the girls in the front of the bus screamed, “OH MY GOSH! WE’RE HERE! I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT I AM HERE RIGHTNOW!”.  As we carried our bulging, overweight baggage up the stairs of Girl’s South and searched for our names on an index card on a bunk, many more female faculty were there to welcome us to our new home, as well as traces of semesters before on the top of my bunk.  “Being homesick is a waste of time – you’re home. SP’11” was the first thing I saw when I laid down on my stripped mattress, and is still the first thing I wake up to every morning.  Everyday, I believe it more and more.  The first few weeks were a blur, jam-packed days of tours and walks filled with expectations seminars and class introductions, ending when I would collapse on my bed after dinner.  You are home – what kind of home is this? This was my first challenge.  For me, home was where I was always comfortable, with friends and family who’s love I could always feel without fail in my life.  This was an obstacle that I had to hurdle in the beginning, only getting that love from them for 20 minutes a week and anxiously opening up their letters on mail day, but after the first month, the love that grew between me and the students, faculty and island brought me a new, beautiful kind of love.  Just as Island School began to be my home, the other 48 students and all of the faculty became my family, and my routine was in place during 5-week academics, a new obstacle arose: Kayak.   I have never been described as the outdoorsy-type, never camped before in my life, and have never gone 8 days without showering.  The first night, with the rain beating down on our already wilting tent, my tent mates and I lay awake at1:30 am, sodding wet with puddles in our tent, yelling to Mother Nature.  “We get it! You control the weather!” we screamed, but little did we know that this was only the beginning of three days of straight rain.  The most abnormal weather conditions because of the dry season and the fact that The Bahamas are considered dry Caribbean islands.  Lucky us. The third morning, we awoke to a thunderstorm close to camp, so everyone was instructed to stay in tents.  Sitting in our wet tent, eating grapefruits and corn flakes, singing at the top of our lungs to Christmas songs and Taylor Swift is the most vivid memory I have ever had, and is definitely one of my highlights of my entire Island School experience.  I found a silver lining in those thunderclouds that unleashed their wrath on K4 those 3 days, and I learned about pushing myself and making the best out of every situation I am put in.  I came back from the 8-Day Kayak Trip a lot smellier, hairier, and with MANY more mosquito bites, but what I remember the most is how mentally and physically tougher, more appreciative of everything in my life, and more motivated to keep challenging myself in as many ways as possible I became.

Challenge is growth.  Growth is pride.  Pride is happiness.  Happiness spreads love.  As Michael and I learned today in church, The Island School is home because of everyone’s willingness to participate in loving, being loved, supporting, and being supported.  With myIslandSchoolfamily always loving and supporting me, I have reached goals I never thought possible.  Running 8 miles with the continuous support of Casey Rutherford as my running buddy, something I have never done before in my life, makes me a true believer that love and support makes change happen.  Going back to New Jersey in 3 ½ weeks, I can’t imagine not seeing these people’s faces that have watched me grow leaps and bounds over 100 days everyday, but I know that the lessons learned at Island School are too valuable not to be shared with the world, and it is my commitment to share them.  I am more motivated than ever to return home and make changes in my community, appreciate my life even more, and take full advantage of every opportunity I come across.  With the friendships I have gained on this little off-island of Eleuthera, I know that our bond can stretch over oceans and years, as well as our message of challenging oneself and making a difference in this world. So as of now, I pass this commitment on to you.  Pay it forward.  Share your love, your support, and push yourself in everything that you do. Change the world, because you can.  Get ready… Make change!

Levi: It was a sunny day, a slight breeze overhead and the ocean was calling my name. The previous night had been one filled with thoughts and emotions of leaving my bed, and the cleanliness that I thought a thirty-second shower would bring me. I had all my washed clothes packed as light as I could slung over my shoulder and our group of twelve walked quietly, realizing that we were parting with our friends for what felt like an eternity. After a couple hours of packing the ocean brought a sense of excitement and we headed out. It wasn’t long before the swift current sent us flying over the sharks and colorful coral underneath. After a while, the thoughts of spearfishing and the momentum that the current brought to us earlier that morning were quickly relinquished as ominous rain clouds developed on the horizon. We realized that our strength could carry us no farther as not only the current but the swells were in a constant state of disproval, their anger shown by the lapping water slowly filling up the kayak through every hole it could find.

We were in the peak wilderness of our emotions during of our solo when an indescribable pain sent me back into civilization. I then returned to my thoughts by myself, looking and writing files that my memory had kept from previous experience at The Island School. It was from that experience forward that I came to the realization that  time alone to think is equally important to the group dynamics of kayak as I develop as a person. Our group then returned; back on the road to school sharing harrowing tales of suffering and pain. When we had our first meal and we were greeted by waiting faculty, all thoughts were returned to our friends that we hadn’t seen and our life continued. I then took a shower and unpacked my my unclean clothes and realized how comfortable our beds felt.

Mattie: Everything was silent. Nerves were racing through my every limb. No one spoke. No one knew what to say. Were we prepared? Were we ready to part with our bonded twelve? We were stepping into a new world. A new place with the population of one. We took a vow of silence and from that point on it was to be our thoughts and us. I felt safe with the group. Secure in my home away from home. Megan and Brady guided us down the beach, Megan simply turned and pointed. I felt as if I had just been voted off the island as I watch my new family turn into yet another grain of sand as they disappeared down the beach. I sat, I observed, I explored my own thoughts, I visited searched for my emotions.

My thoughts brought me back home, not home back home with my kayak group, not back home at The Island School, but back home, back home inMassachusetts. I wanted to live in the present but my past consumed me. My every struggle, every emotion suffocated my thoughts. I did my best to push away the old world I used to see. I am here, I should be present in the blessing I have been bestowed. My mind brought me back to stair one, the miserable morning of my departure to The Island School. Tears from customs, through take off. Was I ready? I have realized I was beyond ready. Now I am about ¾ of the way up the stairway and I know. I know that this is where I need to be, these were the people I need to help me grow as an individual.

The suns rays pierced through the clouds and smothered my every limb.  There was no escaping the heat. I figured I would pass the day knee deep in the crystal water. The sun began to set and I retreated to the woods were I slept the night away. The next day seemed endless; the sun lingered directly above me for hours at a time. I decided to fast on this expedition so weakness devoured my body. I just wanted the day to end, to shut my eyes and have it become home. I shut me eyes and then it began. It started like a dripping faucet I pleaded the rain to stop but it was only beginning. Moments later it was down poring. Lighting and thunder were in a vicious quarrel and I was helpless. I spent hours in lightning position, squatting over my orange PFD for what seemed like days. I was soaked through. My hands began to wrinkle, and soon were pleading for relief. My breath wouldn’t slow down it increased its pace uncontrollably. As morning approached it was still dumping buckets but the moment I saw those grains of sand enlarge down the beach I began to beam. No one could stop me now. I was with my team, my friends, my family. Rain or not there was nowhere I would rather be. I came to realize nothing but my newest experiences could make me happier, as much as I longed for home I was home in this moment and need not long from home any longer.

Surayya: On Sunday I came back from my Down Island Trip, which was a 3-day trip exploring the northern part of Eleuthera.  The trip included exploring places like Governors Harbor, Gregory Town, Harbor Island, Spanish Wells, and many other sites along the way.  On this trip I was supposed to ask myself: “Am I a tourist?” and “What affect does tourism have on a place?”

Up until the morning that we left forDownIslandI had been denying the fact that I am a tourist to theBahamasbecause we were living here for almost 4 months and we didn’t go to many tourist attractions.   Over the past couple months I have not felt that I am a tourist to the Cape, Deep Creek, or Rock Sound, but there was something different about exploring new parts of the island that made me feel like a tourist.  I feel that in this instance we were tourists because we were not going there to live or better the community, where we just going there to buy things, talk to the citizens, and walk around the island.  While I was there I saw the many negative affects of tourism.  When I was inHarborIslandmy waitress, a native Bahamian I’m assuming by her appearance and accent attempted to speak to my friends and in an American accent.  This experience truly opened my eyes to the pressures of tourism and the negative affects it has on identity.  I also observed a massive pile of conch shells just 10ft from the shoreline.  When I was exploring Harbor Island I had trouble finding places that weren’t tourist places.  Meaning places that weren’t way overpriced, somewhere where I could find native food and trinkets made by the people.  While I was on the down island my journey was an intellectual journey.  I now have a different perspective on tourism and how it gets in the way of actually getting to know a place.

I observed this place, the things that they taught, and the way people acted and compared it to the places in theBahamasI was already familiar with.  Once returning from my journey and going back to campus I went back to a place where everything was genuine and where tourism had little affect.  From this trip I was able to understand that when I explore a place I am not just an individual minding my own business, I am affecting every place that I go even if it’s indirectly.

Emma B: The morning we set out for kayak the skies were gray and threatening rain. Though, our fearless leaders Rob and Nadine were there to push us forwards and keep our kayak journey on track. I was sad to be leaving many of the people who I had just gotten to see for a day, but I was so ready and excited for the 8-day journey that lay ahead of me. I would be without so many of the things I had come accustomed too, such as bathing, sleeping in a bed, wearing different clothes everyday, using a toilet, and having a roof over my head. We paddled much farther than expected that first day and set up camp at Deep Creek, it was clear that our group was very driven. The first challenge that arose was the rain, it held off for the whole day and began around dusk the first night. The rain then continued practically non-stop throughout the next two days, it was impossible to keep anything dry during those few days. It took a lot of work to keep the fire going, through the entirety of the day to keep everyone warm and to cook the food. Although the rain made everything much more complicated, I am glad it was there. Also, Rob and Nadine made sure we had plenty of things to do each day, keeping us busy helped our spirits stay up. I would not have wanted the weather on our kayak to be any different than it was because it helped me to realize how lucky I am. One of  the best moments on the entire trip was when the sun came out and every single person was so happy.

A few days later on my solo I had so much time that I thought a lot about what I wanted to take out of the experience of the 8-day trip. I made a list in my placebook of things that I wanted to remember as well as a list of things to remember to appreciate, I also wrote my family members and friends letters expressing some of the thoughts I was having to them. Because I lived with so few comforts it was incredibly easy to list the things that I was appreciative of that usually seemed like things that I would never have to live without. I made these lists in hopes that if ever after I returned to The Island School or my hometown of Marblehead and I was feeling angry about life I could read over my lists and just be thankful that I had a roof over my head. As well as all of the other simple other comforts I take advantage of on a regular basis. I am so glad that I did these things, because now that I am back at school I have so much to help me remember my kayak experience and what I wanted to take out of it. I cant wait to give the letters that I wrote to my family members and friends, because I was in a place mentally that I am not sure I will ever reach again. Even just writing about my experience now, makes me appreciate the bed I will be sleeping in an hour from now.

Emma K: I left the campus to begin my eight-day journey that would take me out of my comfort zone and stretch me in ways that I have never experienced. I left behind my comfortable bed, regular classes, and the rest of the staff and students that I was used to interacting with on a daily basis. Our kayak began on an overcast day, but I hoped that the weather would clear up and leave us with beautiful paddling and camping conditions. However, on the second day when I found myself jogging around an island in my lifejacket to stay warm in the pouring rain, I knew that I might have had some false hopes. The rain continued for the next day, and to make it a little more interesting some wind, thunder and lightening were thrown into the mix. Our tents were left with standing water, and my clothes were permanently soaked.

The day that the sun finally appeared through the clouds gave me hope that our trip was going to continue and end in better weather. This proved to be true and we paddled on in the sun. When we arrived at our destination; lighthouse beach, I felt a new excitement for the beautiful beach, the sandstone cliffs, the patch reefs that I could see just below the surface of the turquoise water, and for the two nights I would be spending solo in this environment. The journey continued as we walked silently along the beach to begin our solos, I felt ready to be away from the group after seeing them almost constantly for the previous kayak days. During my solo I spent my time drawing my campsite and its surroundings, collecting rope to make bracelets, and relaxing on the beach, however the part that I enjoyed the most was on the first day in the first few hours. I picked my way through the dry shrubbery behind my site, being careful not to step on the piles of glass bottles, shoes, hardhats and milk crates that had washed up with the tide. I then searched for a stick that was about two and a half times my height. I went searching for a coconut palm that was short, but still had ripe coconuts, and stood under the tree for a while, swinging at a coconut until it finally crashed down. I brought my lunch back to my site and figured out how to hack it open on a short branch of a tree. This was one of the most satisfying meals I have ever had. Two nights and three days later as I sat on the driftwood log that had become my chair. I thought about how I was so close to the end of my journey inside a journey, I has left campus on a kayak trip with 13 other people, then split from the group to experience the trip in a completely different way. I had enjoyed my time alone with the company of the birds and crabs, but when I saw Rob and Nadine rounding the corner as the sun rose, I had to try my best to stay in the bounds of my site while I waited to be picked up. As we walked along the beach I felt the excitement that everyone had to share stories of their own unique adventures.

Greg: I awoke to the sounds of rain hitting our tent inside one of the caves of lighthouse beach. Solo day. We got up, ate our granola and got prepped for solo. As the rain poured down with the wind, we walked to the start of solo, Lighthouse Point. We went over the procedures, then solo started. We walked down the soft sand beach. I turned as my spot was decided ready for solo. The rain kept coming. I had a bunch of coconut palms, casuarinas, and palms at my site.

Trying to create shelter as quickly as possible, I collected palm fronds to put in front of and over a somewhat sheltered group of palms. The rain and wind were not letting up. I built the shelter, and then set up my tarp underneath/in the palm grove. As I sat on a piece of wood I found underneath the tarp, I thought about The Island School and what I want to do this summer. After a while, I got out to check if food rations had come. I looked and saw both of our leaders walking down the beach instead of just one. They walked up and said that I could talk now we are pulling you from solo. As I walked down the beach returning, I felt accomplished. I had done 6 hours of solo in constant wind and rain.

Nina: On April 14 after dinner circle everyone stampeded to the dinning hall after dinner circle, one might think it was just another night. However it was not, the Kayak Rotation list had been put up. Arms and legs flailed as people pushed forward trying to see which group they had been assigned. This simple list of names that held so much meaning, telling you when and who you would be spending the next three weeks, arguably one of the most transformative parts of the semester, with.  I got order of activities I had hoped for first a trip down island, then 8 days of brutal kayaking, and finally a week of academics before I would once again be reunited with my island school family.

Down Island passed by in the blink of an eye. A blur of food, good times, and exploration. Then on to kayak. Throughout my time at Island School leading up to that point eight day kayak had been talked about with a sort of awe. Stories of solos , rough waves, the beautiful lighthouse beach, and the intense transformation that former students had apparently experienced. Safe to say I was a bit apprehensive. On our first day of kayaking as we began our journey out of girls dorm cut I discovered something, amazingly I wasn’t a utter failure at kayaking, in fact I was quit good. With that newly acquired knowledge I speed to the front were I stayed for the first two days of paddling. On the third day as the wind picked up and the waves got bigger my skill began to dwindle and I found myself drifting backward. After only two days on the water camping I was already sick of it. My arm ached, my neck hurt from sleeping on hard packed sand and my stomach growled for something besides PB & J.

On the fourth day the weather got even worse even though my moral miraculously went up, and when we were only a quarter of the course planned for that day we decided to beach the kayaks and call it a night. Some challenges awaited us shortly after, the area we had stopped at was to unsheltered to camp at so we had to carry all of our gear down the beach quite a ways, in addition our fire crew built the fire too close to the tide line so before our dinner was even fully cooked the fire was washed away by the incoming tide. Additionally that night and the following day were a blur of torrential downpour and burst of sun, making  us unable to continue on our course. After a day of staying at our campsite with a makeshift shelter that we had constructed out of palm fronds and fallen down trees it was decided that we would not be kayaking to lighthouse beach and that instead we would have to walk all of our gear forty five minutes down the beach to an access road so we could be picked up by one of the vans. After a short and seemingly unreal drive we were there, Lighthouse beach one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Pink sand and crystal clear ocean spanning as far as the eye could see, the only possible downside that solo was coming up the following day. So after one final night of bonding and campfires solo began.

The two days passed in a blur, I had decided to fast so most of my time was spend laying down drifting in and out of sleep, writing in my place book, drinking excessive amounts of water, and generally having a decent time. The only truly unpleasant moment was when first my bug net hammock fell down and then when I hung it back up and tested it out I fell out giving myself quit a nasty bruise by falling on a crate I had fashioned into a sort of stepping stool.  The day we were picked up from solo felt like an eternity in the morning we gorged ourselves on watermelon and pancakes generously made and cut up by our wonderful leaders Rob and Kristie, however the thing they don’t tell you is that after not eating for two days greasy campfire pancakes in large quantities isn’t a good choice, especially considering we then had to walk five and a half miles back to our last campsite not including the additional forty five minute walk back to the kayaks. That walk was possibly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, completely exhausted and incredibly nauseous it was a slow trip. Once there after a quick paddle and clean up job we were finally done with our eight-day trip.  Excited for a shower and my own bed I was rather bereft when I was told we still had more things to do once we got back to campus but they turned out to not be that bad. After what felt like a lifetime away we were finally back on campus, a place were I learned I have come to call home.

Liz: As I approached the calm, cool beach that morning in April, my heart was pounding and hundreds of thoughts were buzzing through my head. I put my dry bag down, and stood next to a large circle drawn in the sand. Brady was standing there, looking collected and prepared. As the rest of the students trickled down from our campsite in the woods, I looked around at everyone’s faces, seeing the same apprehension that I was experiencing. When we had all arrived at our sand-drawn circle, Brady asked that we each choose one word to describe how we felt, and then to step into the circle of silence, which we would remain in for over 48 hours. I took a deep breath, and said my last word for two days: “unsure.”

With that word, I stepped into the circle, all of my previous emotions even more elevated. The orange morning sunlight began to spill over the beach as Brady led us up onto a cliff overlooking sunset beach. We made another circle, staring down onto the ocean and the warm sunrise. She read us a quote from a Buddhist philosopher, and with the end of the quote, I didn’t hear another voice for 48 hours.

With our bags in hand, we silently walked down the beach and were deployed in our solo spots. Student by student, our group continued to dwindle. Megan pointed at me, and then pointed to a palm tree on the beach. I stared at it for a moment, unmoving. After staring at my tree, I had an irresistible itch to work, to move. I organized my dry bags, hanged my hammock, cleared old palm fronds. I rested in my hammock, and stared at two buoys hanging in my tree for what seemed like hours, a white one with a blue stripe, and a pink one with flaking paint.  I spent the next 36 hours wandering around my hammock, locked in silence. Before I knew it, I was entering the last night of my solo, and I couldn’t wait to crack the never-ending silence with my voice, the endless hunger with food. I drifted off into a peaceful sleep, anticipating the morning.

I awoke with a surprised gasp, a bright bolt of lightning cracking through the sky. The thunder growled and grumbled like a hungrily, growing louder and louder with each strike of lightning. I sunk deeper into my sleeping bag, hiding from the oncoming storm. The rain began to fall from the pitch-black sky, slowly at first, then it pelted down in massive droplets. I sat at the base of my tree, wrapped in my tarp and rain jacket. The water seeped through the multitude of holes in my tarp, and soon after my rain jacket. Watching the strikes of lightening illuminate the sky, I sat shivering and wet underneath my tree, feeling tiny and miserable.

I saw huddled figures trudging towards me in their rain jackets, and an extreme exuberance bubbled up inside me, and never before have I been happier. I carried my bags out onto the beach excitedly awaiting their arrival.

Jenna: Since my arrival at The Island School, I have gone through a personal journey. The journey I went through was diving. I wanted to learn to dive for the experience of observing fish and underwater life up close. Diving was a challenge for me. In the early weeks of school when I was becoming scuba certified, diving was a big challenge for me. I would panic and feel uncomfortable breathing under water. At the end of each dive, I would look at my gauge which told me the amount of air I had left in my tank. It would always say 500 pounds, even though I started with 3,000 pounds. Ron my scuba instructor, would keep telling me to relax and breathe more slowly when I was underwater.

After I had become a more experienced diver, I got used to the feel of breathing slow, deep breaths underwater and I focused on my surroundings more. I am really glad I have overcome my challenge. I have learned to appreciate diving and the ability to breathe underwater because only a hand full of people in the world get the chance to dive in their lifetime. The sea is a breath taking place and I am now able to take full advantage of this new world.

Max S: My journey begins with me traveling all the way from my home in Philadelphia to this exceptional world, The Island School. Coming here is an incredible journey because there is no experience similar to it. Comfort zones are pushed so far to their limit and have no choice but to be broken and be ventured deeper into. Every day is a new chance to try something new and gain a new perspective on numerous aspects of life. The initiation of my journey is difficult to identify however, because there are so many different experiences. In a way, the whole semester is my initiation. This is mostly because there is no one experience that really feels like was my initiation into thisIslandSchool experience; there are just too many.

The return is the hardest part of my journey to explain because it is still yet to happen. I can only predict what my return will be and there are numerous thoughts that pop into my head when thinking about it. I can only assume that when I get home there will be a huge amount of changes in my whole lifestyle. Most likely, the way I live will be more environmentally friendly. This will go in a so many aspects, such as food, lights, and trash and where it goes to and how its handled. This is my return to the real world with information that I did not possess before. This is my hero’s journey.

Shane: My journey was coming to the island school after only seeing a pamphlet explaining what it is all about and a little video that I was given.  Those few things were my calling and a little while later I was on a plane to theBahamas.  Throughout my time here I have learned many new things about theBahamas, myself, and the various classes that I have.  I went on several adventures which did not only challenge me physically but also pushed me out side of my comfort zone to a new way of living.  I have made many new friends and had many new experiences that I would not have had if I had not come here.

My journey here is coming to an end and I will miss this experience a lot.  I will miss the people that I have grown close to and this great place that I have come to call home.   The end of my journey will be when I am getting on the plane to go back to the states.  So in my hero’s journey this is when I go back to the other world that I originally came from.

Abby: At The Island School, each student has had many Hero’s journeys. I experienced a hero’s journey was on 8 day kayak. The first element of a hero’s journey is the departure from the ordinary world into the unknown. In this scenario, my kayak trip was the ordinary world and I was preparing to go on solo, an unknown world. I remember sitting around the campfire onLighthouseBeach, eating our last breakfast, granola, before departing on solo. My departure consisted of excitement and nerves. Our group walked in silence down the beach, and we each departed from the group once we reached our solo spot.

The second element of a hero’s journey is initiation. I felt initiated into my solo spot after I built my shelter. At that point, I established myself in the area and had learned a lot about the environment of my solo spot in the process. I rebuilt my shelter three times, each time discovering an element of the environment. The first time I built my shelter I learned about the burrs, that stuck to my clothes and flip flops, and about the pine needles and shady spots in the brush behind the beach. The second time I learned about the necessity of making deep dead mans in the sand and having strong supports for my tarp, or else it would fall over. The third time, I built my final shelter and learned about how useful beach plastic was in setting up my tarp. By this time I learned where the sun rises and falls, and the patterns of the tide. The fact that I did not get wet during the thunderstorm on the second night of solo proves my familiarity with the materials I used and how essential a well-built shelter was.

The last morning of solo I woke up and prepared to return to the ordinary world of 8 day kayak. I returned to K1 with new knowledge about myself and my experience at The Island School. I used this knowledge on 8-day kayak, and appreciated my kayak experience more after solo.

Anna: When I look back on my 8 day kayak trip, I realize there was not one definite event or aspect of the trip that changed me.  The four hour talks around the camp fire, physical exhaustion from kayaking 8 miles at a time, and sleeping on a beach in a lighting storm all contributed to the journey I took.  I could tell I came back different and more self-aware.  I returned back to campus prepared to push myself for the rest of the semester.  The next few weeks after kayak, I noticed a change in my behavior.  I began to participate in every activity they offered, no matter how early it started.  I began to push myself in morning exercise and went on runs during exploration time when no one else went out because of the rain.  I started to actually explore everything within our boundaries during exploration and stopped buying snacks at the Marina Store and then laying on the beach at Sunset.

There was not just one thing that changed me over kayak.  After the first day of almost passing out from sea sickness while kayaking, my journey began.  The relief I felt when I beached my kayak onto the shore of our first camp site made me think nothing would be harder than this day, and the rest of kayak would be a breeze.  Little did I know, the next few days would push me harder than anything in my life.  Every night our group looked up towards the sky and talked about space.  The realization of the size of the universe made me feel so insignificant and caused me to question if trying to change the world was even worth it.  One person was too small to have any effect on the entire earth.  The hardest part of kayak occurred the last night of my 48-hour solo.  I fell asleep on my tarp on the beach, ignoring the dark clouds slowly moving towards me.  I woke up to rain pelting my face and lighting striking the group around me.  For around 12 hours, I sat, rocking back and forth, on a PFD in the dark, waiting to be picked up.  Although kayak and solo were sometimes the hardest parts of my Island School semester, they were also some of the happiest.  When I look back on the events that took place over the eight days, and the change it brought to my outlook on the rest of my semester, I realize it was probably the most influential part of my Island School journey.

Brendan: In Literature class we are learning about the Hero’s Journey, the classic story arc seen in a lot of writing. I have felt like I have been on a Hero’s Journey both by coming to The Island School and overcoming the obstacles I have faced here. When I left my home in late February, I was unsure of what to expect in Eleuthera. I had never been away from home for this long in the past and I was a little nervous to be living with people I didn’t know. Just leaving my familiar setting was the first big challenge for me to overcome. More challenges arose along the way. During the first two weeks we had SCUBA training and a kayak trip. Later in the semester the 8-day kayak trip was another event that pushed me out of my comfort zone. While on the kayak trip I had a smaller Hero’s Journey when I left for a 48 hour solo experience. Being without normal amenities that I am used to helped me grow. Now I am nearing the end of my journey. Looking back I believe that every challenge I faced and overcame made me stronger and more prepared for the next one. When I return home I will be able to carry the insight I have gained with me and make where I live a better place.

Eric: I sit on the surface of the ocean.  I breathe.  The air is unlimited.  As I look down, Cathedral Rock is a long ways away.  It is separate from me.  It is a world of gilled animals.  Only turtles and dolphins might bring their air there.  Now me.

I bend my torso; I straighten. My feet are in the air: my head is underwater.  I bob below the surface and my feet too are underwater.  I spit out my snorkel—I don’t need it to breathe air anymore.  Saltwater rushes in to fill my open mouth, but I close it.  I kick down, farther into the world of the reef.  Fish look at me.  I do not belong there.  I blow out while pressing my nose.  If I do not, the pressure will damage my eardrums and sinuses.  I was not built for this environment.

Now I pass below the top of the reef.  The Blue Chromises swim away from me.  I kick.  I push myself further down. I kick.  Now I see below a lip of rock, I see a tunnel.  The silhouettes of Cubera Snapper hulk in the blue of the other side.  I want air but I do not need it.  I kick.  Above me is rock.  I am in the reef.  I am in the stomach of a whale.  But I swim out.  I have passed through.  I am back in the sunlight, but not yet able to breathe.  I rise through the water, leaving the world of Cathedral Rock behind me.  I kick; I ascend faster.  Looking up at the surface, the sky seems red, in contrast with the blue world below.  The distance is so short, I will be there in a few moments, but it is an eternity.  The fish remain underwater, swimming through their world, while I burst through the surface.  I breathe. Sterlingmeets me.  He holds out his hand.  I am back; I breathe.  Though I am now back in the air, I pulled strength with me from the fortress of marine life, the Tunnel of Cathedral Rock.

Hannah: It is hard to remember the beginning of my Island School journey. It seems so long ago and all I can really remember is waiting for the 8-day kayak, solo, parent’s weekend and the half marathon; all experiences that I have recently had or am about to have. It’s hard to believe that just a couple of months ago we were all meeting for the first time in the airport. The next few days were filled with introductions, basic getting to know each other questions as well as getting to know The Island School. It was a challenging transition but over the past two months this once unfamiliar place transformed into a home and those once strangers into close friends.

The two months I have been here have been filled with challenges: academic, emotional and physical. Overcoming challenges has become an everyday thing: whether is be morning exercises, new class styles or confronting difficult issues. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of my Island School experience so far was eight-day kayak and forty-eight hour solo. The beginning of kayak was demanding and strenuous. The weather was unpleasant and I was pushed in ways I never had been before. I learned a lot of valuable lessons and a lot about myself over these few days. While my journey is not over I know that all the lessons I have learned I will take home with me. I am more aware, have a more open mind and am more willing to tackle challenges.

Kyle T: My heroes journey was my adventure on solo.  As I prepared to leave the campsite I had been at for the last two nights the rain continued to pound down on our trip.  I was about to leave a place that I was comfortable in, a campsite, and venture to a  forty eight hour solo somewhere in the next two miles down lighthouse beach.

I started my journey by packing up my gear that I would need for the next two days.  As a group we walked to the most southern part of Eleuthera to the traditional starting point of our solo experiences I could feel the nerves from all of us in the air.  Through the down-pouring rain we slowly walked to the point in our bright raincoats where we would start the silence of what we thought was going to be the next forty eight hours.

I started walking down lighthouse beach close the front of the group and waited for Justin to point at me, signaling that this would be the place where I would stay.  I kept walking as the first eleven people were pointed at and told where they would spend their time.  I finally got pointed at and I walked up the beach to find a place to stay.  I set up my tarp after battling with the wind, the rain and getting soaked to the bone.  After a few hours of battling with the rain and trying to sit and stay dry I heard noise of people talking.  I heard Ashley come by and tell me that we were coming off of solo, I gave her a look of utter confusion.  I packed up as fast as I could and got ready to go back to the campsite that I knew.

After we got back to the campsite we were told to quickly pack up our group gear and wrap it in at tarp so we could begin our two mile walk out to the road.  That night we spent the night in the dorm as the rain came down even harder than it had in the last few days.  The entire experience showed me how lucky I was to be in the position I was at the moment.

Connor: Before I came to  all I wanted to do was relax and have fun. I was the opposite of a morning person. The concept of working out right when I woke up seemed impossible. I’d roll out of bed at 12, stumble to the couch and probably fall asleep again. I would occasionally work out and didn’t try very hard in school. I never got bad grades, but I definitely was not performing to my potential.

Then, I came to Island School and had to wake up at 6:30, do 20 pushups, because one of my dorm mates or me was probably late to circle, and then swim, run, or a combination of the two. Needless to say, it was a huge change. But, this change gave me a completely different perspective on life. I realized I like waking up and immediately working out. It gives me the energy I need to start my day. Every morning here I wake up and just want to go right back to sleep, but then once I start working out and after I’m done, I always feel awake and energized. I also realized that waking up as late as I used to doesn’t make me any less tired and makes the day so much shorter. The Island School showed me a more productive, healthy, and full lifestyle and I plan on taking it home with me.

Zach:   Coming to theIslandSchool I went through a “hero’s journey” where I left the comfort of my home and the open pantry and fridge to come to theIslandSchool. The journey had begun. Once I came here and saw the amount of hard work the community had to accomplish I knew this was not a beach vacation but truly a journey, pushing me to change to become a better person. Within the first weeks of being here I had to go live in the woods kayaking to an unknown place and live with horribly stormy weather. I have been continuously pushed mentally and physically with challenging questions that have no perfect answer and with physical tasks of swimming great distances and moving hundreds of cement blocks. I have become a much stronger person and problem solver. I became a part of the place around me, working to improve and enjoy the place as well as change and challenge how I have lived my life. This is my journey and soon it will be over and I will take my knowledge of how to use and think of the world around you in a way that improves everything and is symbiotic.

Returning home I will leave here with a broader stronger understanding and ability to see and analyze the things around me. I will return and firstly share what I have learned in my journey with family and friends. Then I will teach them and model with how I have changed from my journey. I will teach them about the preservation of water. The chain effects that come from just being a consumer. As well as the importance of social and environmental compromise. From then on out I will be different and hope to change other people around me in a way where I teach them what I have learned and let them make their own decisions. While I will go through a “hero’s journey” and return home, the journey will always be part of me and affect my home in many ways since it has affected me.

Natalie: I started off my Island School journey just like any other hero’s journey. I left my world of home and comfort to experience new things far outside my comfort zone. I knew that this journey would be a challenge and I would have to work through many obstacles, but the knowledge and experience coming out lasts a lifetime. I vividly remember quietly walking into theNassau airport to be greeted by about 20 unfamiliar faces that I would soon be spending three months with. The plane and bus ride to school passed slowly filled with small conversations and nervous kids. As we pulled intoIslandSchool, a smile appeared on everyone’s faces. This was now our new home and new community. I was looking forward to every part of my journey ahead of me.

The past two months of Island School has consisted of the hardest moments, the saddest moments, the happiest moments, and the most rewarding moments. It is interesting how so many types of experiences have come out of this journey, all resulting in something I have learned. One of the hardest obstacles I have had to face during my time here was my solo. We were placed on Lighthouse Beach around 9 in the morning ready for 48 hours of reflecting and relaxing. Little did we know, we were in for a tropical storm full of rain, heavy winds, and freezing cold weather. The six hours we were a huge challenge for me, but I am so happy we experienced them. Getting through that challenge left me with a new mindset and attitude. Our whole kayak group helped each other through the rest of kayak and the weather. This is just one of the many obstacles at Island School we have had to face together.

I still have a month left of my journey, but I can already feel a new perspective and mindset that I will arrive home with. A part of the Hero’s Journey is Master of the Two Worlds. At Island School, I have been placed far out of my comfort zone for so many things including kayaking, solo, running, and a different type of academics. Now that I have experienced these things I was not comfortable with in the beginning, I am a much stronger person. Going home, I will be open to new ideas and will always know that trying things outside of my comfort zone will be better for me as a person.

Robbie: My Journey begins with me at home. I started a vain self-conscious individual that was unsure about who I wanted to be and where my priorities truly were. I would wake up 30 minutes before school started to shower and fix my hair, pick out my clothes and make sure all of my homework was perfect. And I am a guy. I was unsure if my friends were actually my friends and was constantly nervous that they might get board of me and decide to stop hanging out with me. I was on the verge of paranoid if my girlfriend actually liked me as much as I like her (which turned out to well placed concern). As well as this school and sports had consumed my life. I had become an OCD perfectionist who had to have all of his assignments organized by section and date used in there own individual folders. I had to buy a special back pack so I could not only fill it but strap more books to the outside of it. Then after school I would go strait to hockey where I would practice as hard as I could every day and still be on third line. After this I would go home and work until I fell asleep. I was unhappy.

I went to The Island School and was introduced to a whole new way of life. Good people that genuinely wanted to be my friend and my comrade surrounded me. They were not just thinking about how they could personally benefit from hanging out with me. Eventually these people would form together to form such a close community that the idea of one of them leaving was unbearable. Each of them would fight to the end for one and other. This type of community I had only been a part of with my family I never believed that it could happen with people connected by anything less than blood. As well as this I realized that all of the stress and paranoia that I had felt in traditional school was gone and I actually started enjoying school something that I believed was impossible. As well as this I started getting an odd feeling as though I was part of the experience. I was emotionally, spiritually, and mentally bonded to the journey of The Island School.

I know already where my journey will end: I get off the plane at JFK international airport. Getting my bags and driving back in the taxi seemed to blur by all I can think about is my home. I had taken an early flight so it was still light out as I walk through my perfectly green lawn. I smell all the variety of beautiful flowers around the garden. I take the long rout up to my house the stone walk that runs next to the pool. The gentle slope of the hill aligned perfectly with my feet I did not even have to think about the steps I was taking. As I walk I run my hands through the various plants that line the walk feeling every different soft leaf. I reach the deck I hear my 2 dogs barking before I can sea them I walk up to the two large double doors and open them.

Tai: On this particular morning, my watch went off at6:10 like normal and I slid out of my bed to wake up the Girls’ Dorm. The dorm wasn’t too cold that morning, which was out of the ordinary, but it did have its usual smell of laundry and Garnier Fructis shampoo. I remember that I was looking forward to long AMX. My last run was six miles, and I couldn’t really imagine running much farther.

I pulled on my favorite sports bra and running shorts and shuffled down to circle in semi-darkness. I croaked my number at count off and moaned over the boys innate and unavoidable lateness while I hit the ground for some early morning pushups. Then we broke off into tracks and starting warming up.

I’m not sure why, but that morning Liz and I were feeling especially good and pushed to the front of the warm-up. We stretched and talked, ready to run for the next 37 minutes and back. Finally the run started. Our breathing synced up and we took off.

Five minutes passed and I felt great. 10 minutes passed and I was sweating. 20 minutes passed, I was really winded now. 30 minutes passed and my legs were burning. The turnaround came, and I wanted nothing more than to lie down on the pavement.

The sun beat down on us with no forgiveness and the wind hadn’t even bothered to wake up that morning. I could feel heat radiating from the pavement while salty sweat stung my eyes. My hair licked the back of my stiff neck and stuck there. I turned my face to the sky, desperate for breeze, and trying to think of anything but running, but I couldn’t escape where I was. With over half an hour left, I sputtered and gasped through running-buddy conversation down the stretch of endless black pavement and green bush. The air was thick with heat and I could barely suck it through my lungs. I thought the run would never end.

After wiping sweat from my forehead for about the eightieth time, I saw the turquoise roofs peeking between the trees. The white buildings ofCEIcrept around the corner into my line of vision. There it was.

I felt my strides lengthen underneath me with newfound hope. I watched CEI get closer and closer until the familiar crunch of dirt gravel sounded from my feet. With only the bridge left, I somehow found energy and broke into a sprint, bounding down the bridge and smacking the flagpole. I leaned against the wooden bench, listening to my heart pound in my ears and watching my chest frantically rise and fall. Eight miles. I was stronger than ever before.

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