Lilly Ganske Acclimating to a new culture thousands of miles away from my hometown could not possibly be an easy feat. Therefore, I have experienced the rigorous transformation of being disoriented to oriented over the past week. Both physically and emotionally, the changes that I have endured between my hometown and The Bahamas have transformed me into a person who strives to understand and deal with the “adjustments or alignments of oneself or one’s ideas to surroundings or circumstances.” When being placed into a community where the “temporal, social, and practical circumstances in life” are entirely divergent of those practiced at home, disorientation is inevitable. From having such a sudden wake up call about how your actions can have detrimental effects on the environment, or realizing that there is not always one right answer, becoming oriented to a place certainly sets forth challenges by “introducing a new situation or environment.”
On the first day of legitimate morning exercise, the revered ‘run-swim,’ I encountered one of the most disorienting experiences of my life. After just arriving to the island, I was expected to run and swim what I consider great distances. Finding myself completely out of my element, I struggled to find reassurance that I would be able to orient myself to this new environment. However, after beginning to process my whereabouts and comprehend that this is what life would be like for the next three months, I began to realize that not being in my comfort zone is part of the process to becoming oriented to a new community. And after sitting through days of classes that were specifically designed to instill knowledge about my location to the rest of the world, I began to collect my bearings and adjust to life on Cape Eleuthera.
In addition to being physically disoriented, becoming oriented to this new environment was also difficult socially and emotionally, considering the fact that I had never even met any of the other 46 students. Unlike at my sending school, where everyone knows each other and relies on friends and faculty for support, I felt as though I was alone and didn’t feel comfortable talking with anyone about my transition. However, after meeting my fellow students and teachers, I realized that we are all in the same situation and sharing the same feelings. This helped me orient myself to life on the Bahamas in knowing that we all have the connection of feeling lost in a new environment. Therefore, over the course of one week I feel as though I have learned the significance of what becoming oriented really means. From being thrown into a totally new environment with a different culture, climate, and group of people, the past few days have really taught me how to adjust and align myself to life at The Island School.
To be oriented to a place can mean many things. According to Oxford Dictionary, orientation is a “familiarization with something,” but to me, orientation is much more than that. Over the past few days here at the Island School I have sat through many orientation classes and also have definitely felt what it is like to be disoriented. Orientation to me is feeling like you have a place, like you belong in your setting and you are knowledgeable and aware of its ongoings. When I first stepped off my third and final flight to Rock Sound I had no idea what to expect. I was thrust into an area completely new with people I barely knew as well. I was disoriented, I was confused, and I had absolutely no idea whatsoever as to what my role in the Island School would be like. From the first dinner, where I found myself joyfully cleaning dishes I began to feel a bit more oriented. It could have been the soapy water, or the loud dish-washing music, but I felt at home, like that was where I belonged. My orientation into the Island School did not begin in the classes but rather in being in this new place and starting to gain an appreciation for my surroundings. Compared to my boring showers at home, on my mere second day at the Island School I took a Navy style shower with a view fit for a postcard. I was starting to feel oriented with the land and with my environment. Like Lopez asks in our required reading “Rediscovery of America”, what is a home? The Island School sure doesn’t feel like home to me yet, but through further orientation I intend to make it a home in which I play a role in something bigger than me. Orientation has made me believe that I can be a necessary part in this community and that through getting to know the people, the animals, and the land I can be a significant part of Eleuthera.
Orientation also has been described in Oxford as “the relative physical position or direction of something,” but orientation is not just about the physical action of getting to know something. Here at the Island School, the biggest struggle I have had is in getting mentally oriented. The lifestyle, the interactions, and the classes are so different to anything I have ever witnessed before. When we interviewed and listened to guest speakers from the Bahamas on our first day of History class I felt something I had rarely felt in my past history classes; interest. I genuinely wanted to know about the past and I was excited in the prospect of learning. It was new to me, and definitely got some getting used to, but now I have oriented myself to understand that my education can be fun. Also, I had to become oriented with the people here. The numerous students and the faculty have made my head spin, and it has taken me a while to figure out each and every single one of them, but now I feel like my mental orientation has helped me to achieve a sense of respect for all of the individuals on campus. The orientation process has not been the easiest, thats for sure. On the second day breakfast I wanted to scream because of all the new faces, but now I feel like a stronger, better person from that experience. My next step will be in orienting me with myself. Finding out who I am slowly but surely. I know what to expect of my classes, dorm life, social life, chores, scuba, and meals but I hope to eventually know my own direction and ambition. My mental orientation of the first week has had its ups and downs, but ultimately I would say that I have felt like I belong and I have felt comfortable throughout the day, which is what orientation is all about.
The definition of Orientation is “the relative physical position or direction of something” this however applies more to objects rather than people.
I believe that being oriented to a place means to be familiar or comfortable with you surroundings and the situation that you are in at any specific moment, or to “familiarization with something”.
For me here at the Island School a moment where I felt completely disoriented was on the first night at dinner, when we had all arrived at the school but most of us had lost at least one bag on the flight to Eleuthera. It was very difficult to figure out what our surroundings were like because we were quickly losing light and the mosquitoes were beginning to come out. That first night was definitely one of the most confusing times I have ever experienced. The next morning however made it much easier to discover where things were and what to do. What I learned from this is that at times you may be confused but in time everything will be clear and make sense.
Humming fans providing a cool breeze, a distant ambulance siren, a fridge full of food, and houses so close that as my mom would say, “We could spit at each other!” This is what I’m used to, this is home to me. Not water so blue that the teal color in my colored pencil set actually matches it, living with 26 other girls, and a sky that is so full of stars. As soon as I stepped foot here I didn’t know which way to turn; exciting new friends, the beautiful landscape or the shower. Physically I was lost. That is until we had our first Literature class.
Harkness is something that I’m familiar with, something that I’m comfortable doing. In our first class we touched upon the topic of querencia. Querencia is finding your place, your home and an inner sense of peace. It’s something that we all search for, whether or not we are aware of it at the time. In that Harkness discussion I found a little bit of a querencia. A medium in which I felt comfortable and was familiar with. To me this is the beginning of becoming oriented, for to become oriented to a place is to find your querencia there, or at least a piece of it. If there is somewhere or something that gives you that feeling of being relaxed and open, then I believe you have found a piece of querencia and this is what orients us to where we are.
Ashley’s definition in class, “the adjustment or alignment of oneself or one’s ideas to surroundings or circumstances”, has brought me to thinking about becoming oriented to The Island School. I have heard from others about The Island School and how it can be very difficult at times, but to just push through it. Being here for the past week has put me through some tough times, but also incredible experiences that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish back home. “We are now going to descend, remove our masks and place them back on underwater”, said Becky, during my first scuba diving lesson. Jumping right into the water, with all my scuba gear on, was a challenging experience for me. Where I come from, I do not spend a lot of time exploring under the water and I have never had the feeling of scuba diving.
“Is anyone in the outdoor shower right now?” This question can be heard by from any girl in the dorm, at any time during the day. This is a new lifestyle for me to live by, because I was familiar with my own shower and able to use as much water as I please, at any temperature I wanted. At The Island School, that is not the case at all. All twenty-seven girls share two outdoor showers, most recommended, and three indoor showers. These showers are called navy showers, which are fast and consume the least amount of water. My attention has been brought too much more thrilling and difficult occurrences while living here at The Island School for the past week. I can’t wait to keep living this dream and find out what more there is in store for me.
As I first lugged my two stuffed duffle bags up the gravel driveway to my dorm, I couldn’t help but wonder what I was doing here. I was tired, confused, and most of all hungry. I lay my two bags down on the foot of my plastic covered mattress and stared at my small space, having no idea where to begin unpacking. Next thing I knew, I was whisked off in a crowd of teenage boys, heading to something called “circle.” After a quick welcome from John in the fading light around the Bahamian flag, we were funneled to the dining hall where we sat down and waited for our table to be called up to get food. As I looked around at the sea of faces surrounding me, I could only feel one thing. Disorientated.
To me, being orientated means knowing what you’re doing and having an overall heading, whether it’s a mental or physical direction. As my week went on, and I went through “orientation” classes, and learned names, and places on the island, I eventually grew to be not totally confused in this place. The further I went, the more it started making sense. One point where I finally had an idea of why I was here and what I was doing was during the harkness discussion I had in Histories class. Even though I barely knew the kids around me, and most of them had never even heard of harkness before IslandSchool, it was one of the best harkness discussions of my life. I realized that all of these kids were here for the same reason as I was. To get a better understanding of our world, and our place in it. That’s when I knew why I was here. That’s when I got my heading.
To be oriented to a place I believe is to be completely comfortable in the position you are in whether it is physical, mental, or emotional. My first couple days at the Island School were a little overwhelming. I was in a new environment surrounded by faces I had never seen before. You could say that I felt a little disoriented. It was not until September second when we had our first scuba class where I got the feeling of total comfort. I was sitting on the ocean floor, staring thirty feet up. Instead of seeing the sky I saw beautiful ripples of blue water. The swift waves were moving in a calming, rhythmic pattern. The oceans beauty entranced me. Fish were weaving in and out of coral and crevices in the rock. Tiny shrimp danced across the sand. It was amazing to take a second and breath while watching the ocean come to life around me. It was at this moment, that instant, I felt completely oriented.
Ashley told us the definition for “oriented” was the adjustment or alignment of oneself or one’s ideas to surroundings or circumstances. In my situation, I found this definition on the dot correct. I had at first felt lost and alone but as soon as I began to orient myself I found comfort in my surrounding. In this new environment, I have found that to become oriented and relaxed sometimes you just need to take a second to breath. By taking things nice and slow I have started to feel right at home here.