by new blog contributor Phoebe Shaw: Last night forty-six of us sat quietly in the library, hurriedly trying to finish our mountains of work. Though this past week has been one of the most difficult yet in terms of academic stress, with our oral histories project due as well as another complex marine ecology essay, none could focus solely on homework. There was a sadness lurking in everyone’s mind that after breakfast today, only 24 of us will remain in our small community here on campus. Given the intimacy of this environment, in just over one month we, the students and faculty, have grown closer than I could have ever imagined. With that said, the departure of kayak and down island groups this morning with undoubtedly leave a conspicuous gap in this place that I think we all can now call home.
As I sat on my bunk last night thinking and reflecting on all of the goodbye hugs we had given each other in the girls dorm just in case we didn’t get the chance today, a terrifying thought struck me. This coming Friday marks the end of our seventh week here at The Island School; the halfway point. In various classes we have discussed the idea of a sense of place, and at what point one can determine that they truly know a place. I feel that I have come to know and love this place in such a way that I do truly know The Island School. It’s sights, smells, sounds and even tastes: the turquoise ocean right outside my window, the sound of palm fronds swishing in the Bahamian breeze, and the delighting smell of freshly baked Johnny Cake are now irreversibly a part of my memory and my definition of myself as an individual. Even with this said, as close as I feel to this place, it still seems as though we have only been here for no more than two or three weeks. The time has gone faster than I could have ever imagined, and I think it is fair to say for myself and my classmates, that we don’t want it to end. This has quite possibly been, and will be, the most monumental experience of my life. My feelings towards being here can be defined by a single moment in this past week: the dissection of a blacktip shark for research class. Throughout the entire dissection, I felt as if I was in a state of blissful disbelief. I can remember thinking to myself ‘you are in the most incredible place, with the most incredible people, doing one of the most incredible things imagineable’. Those words can more than adequately describe nearly everything we do here on Cape Eleuthera, making this a unique and challenging place that I think we will all carry with us for the rest of our lives.
Though the halfway point brings with it the thought of our inevitable return to our respective homes across the U.S. and the globe, it also gives a sense of accomplishment, as well as hope and excitement for the many adventures that lay ahead of us in the last months. Being on the K4 kayak and down island group, which does not leave campus until October 18, the excitement of 11 days out exploring the island is still something I am looking forward to. I am confident that our last months of the semester will be packed full of new and interesting classes, research field days spent catching sharks, dives at breathtakingly beautiful reefs, dish crew dance parties, and exploration time spent lounging at the beach and indulging in a sweet treat (or two) from the marina store. Just being in this place creates a feeling that is indescribable. When the day comes that we must eventually return home to our ‘real’ lives, I don’t know if I will ever be able to sufficiently describe to my friends and family just exactly how incredible this experience is or the value it holds for me. Thus far, I am having the time of my life and I cannot wait for more adventures, learning, and laughs in the coming weeks.