Home is Where the Heart is

It’s sort of intimidating to move into a cabin with six other girls for an entire semester. Before coming to Maine Coast Semester, I hadn’t ever spent more than a week sharing a room with more than a few other girls, and especially not ones I had never met. I was the third student from my cabin, Pete Gillies, to arrive on the first day of the semester – two of my cabinmates, Billi and Bella, were already moving in when I got there. As soon as I walked through the door, they jumped up and introduced themselves. As I made my bed, unpacked my clothes, and thumbtacked pictures to the walls in my corner, I met Evelyn and Clio, two other cabinmates who moved in across from me. By the end of the day, I had met almost everyone in the semester, including Edie and Fiona, the last two of my six new roommates. 

After a full day of introductions and orientation, we were all exhausted, but ready for our first cabin meeting, which we held around a campfire with our cabin parents, Katie and Susan. At the campfire, we got to know each other more through questions and discussions about our home life. I think our first cabin meeting will always be one of my favorite Chewonki memories because the campfire was a window into what our semester experience would look like: moments of laughing and leaning on each other around the fire, nodding and listening to each other’s stories, and creating our own agreement for what we wanted our community to look like. All day, the faculty had been saying that a Chewonki day feels like an entire week, but I didn’t understand how that could be possible until we went to sleep that night. We hadn’t even been at Chewonki for a full day, but I already knew that these six girls that I’d spend the rest of the year with would become some of my best friends. 

During our free time over the first few days of the semester, we decided to decorate the cabin with mementos from our own rooms to make it feel more like home. We hung strings of lights and paper birds over the doorway and stuck glow stars to the ceiling. Clio brought fake sunflowers with her, so we leaned them against our beds, and we put all of our snacks into what we call the “communal snack box” on our table. Soon, our mudroom was filled with muddy work boots, the bookshelves overflowed with school binders and books, and our walls were plastered with pictures of our favorite celebrities. Each day at Chewonki, we try these crazy new experiences and then laugh about them all night, (including our very own Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants moment) and even though we have three months left, we sing at the top of our lungs to the radio during cabin cleanups as if the semester ends tomorrow. 

Although we don’t share all of the same classes or always sit at the same table at meals, our cabin is a place we can all return to at night and wake up together in the morning. At night, we all ask each other how we are and how our day was, and we fall asleep to a chorus of “good night, love you’s. It’s comforting to know that even though I can’t hug my parents goodnight or snuggle with my dogs at Chewonki like I do at home, I still have a family that I can laugh with, cry with, and create memories with like I’ve known them our whole lives. 

Jules Gross, The Barrie School, Silver Spring, Maryland