With the start of the new year, three students—Celia Hurvitt ’17, Caleb Friends ’16, and Lucas Galperín ’16—returned to campus after spending the fall semester away from DA.
Hurvitt spent four months at the Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki, in Wiscasset, Maine. She lived in a cabin with seven other girls from schools around the country. She began each day at 6:30 a.m. with routine farm chores before breakfast. Her daily academic schedule was similar to that at DA, except for the frequent half-days, when students either went on science and research-based field trips or participated in the work program, helping with campus upkeep and farm chores.
“The 42 of us, [students and faculty,] ran the campus,” Hurvitt said. “There was no maintenance staff—we were the maintenance staff.” The structure of the program contributed to a team atmosphere on campus. She appreciated the sense of unity on the Chewonki campus, where common social divisions at DA, like age and gender, did not exist. She added that since most of the teachers were young, “there weren’t the same kind of divisions” as at DA.
Hurvitt valued her time in Maine as a way to learn “skills not taught at Deerfield.” She had the opportunity to cut solar panels, live in a cabin, do farm chores, and grow her own food. “I drank milk that I milked from a cow on the farm, “she said. “It’s cool being connected to your food like that.”
Her most significant experience was a two-day solo trip to the coast of the ocean. “I realized how much time I don’t spend alone,” she said. “It was overwhelming at first; I didn’t want to do it.” But once she settled in, she began to appreciate being alone. “I realized it gave me [time] for the things I never get to do—I went swimming, [read, and] painted watercolors.”
Hurvitt also said her experience at Chewonki encouraged her to “seek out more conversations with people and realize what a good conversation is.” Without a phone, and with computer access only for schoolwork in class, Hurvitt’s life at Chewonki was “very simple.” After four months “unplugged,” Hurvitt said she and her new friends at Chewonki “almost didn’t want [their phones] back,” when it came time to leave. “It was cool that everyone had made a really active choice to be there; we weren’t distracted by outside things, so we all connected much more.”
While Hurvitt remained close to home, Caleb Friends ’16 and Lucas Galperin ’16 traveled abroad for the semester. Friends and Galperin participated in the SYA China Semester program, making Beijing their home for four months. They both lived with host families and attended classes at Beijing Normal University’s Second Affiliated Upper Middle School.
Galperin said he had a “great relationship” with his host family and loved cooking with his host mom. Friends agreed: “My [host] dad was trying to learn English, so it was cool to be able to help him.”
Both boys enjoyed the big city atmosphere and ease of travel. Galperin explained, “there was always stuff to do and places to explore.” For lunch, all the SYA students were free to wander the city and explore local restaurants. Friends and Galperin often enjoyed noodles and dumplings for lunch, although Galperin said, “Sometimes I kind of missed sit-down meals.”
The SYA students studied together on one floor of a middle school, and Friends noted the setup was slightly “isolating” since it limited the SYA student’s interactions with the local teenagers. However, both boys enjoyed their classes.
Galperin explained that he spent two to three periods a day studying Chinese. He added, “It was obvious that from day one the Chinese classes were [emphasized]…the Chinese instruction was very high quality.”
On the weekends, Friends and Galperin had the opportunity to explore silk markets, attend soccer games, and “hang out with the locals at an internet café.” Friends found one trip to the Shan Xi province in Northern China for a week particularly interesting, because “not a lot of tourists travel to Shan Xi; it was cool being the only Americans.”
While grateful for their experience in China, both were ready to return to the U.S. and life at DA. “It’s nice coming to back Deerfield and appreciating it more,” Galperin said. “There are so many things we take for granted here.”