Emma Lingxue Keeling spent last spring at Chewonki as part of Maine Coast Semester 56. This fall, after returning to the Groton School in Massachusetts, Emma was the subject of an interview in the school newspaper. Her answers are so thoughtful that we want to share them, in edited form, with you here. With thanks to the Groton School newspaper Q: Why did you decide to attend a semester program? A: I knew that I wanted to do something different with my junior year and delve deeper into my love of environmental studies and the outdoors. I was particularly intrigued by the amount of hands-on and experiential learning Chewonki integrates into their curriculum. Q: What were the biggest similarities and differences between Chewonki and Groton? A: A similarity that I found…was a passion for learning. Both schools are places in which students are motivated and encouraged to pursue their interests. In contrast, with only 42 students at Chewonki, the sense of community was stronger. This came from living in cabins, having school meetings where multiple opinions were heard and listened to, and an overall investment in the success of the community. Q: How would you describe the students and faculty at Chewonki? A: I found over 60 (students, faculty, and staff) of the most genuine people I have ever met…People were there for both everyone’s individual success and the strength of the group as a whole. Q: What is one of your favorite or most important memories of the semester? A: My favorite memories came…[from] the small interactions I had with people…I enjoyed my weekly advisor meetings, where my advisor and I would go on walks and talk about the week. I loved the party that my cabin threw for me on my birthday, talking long walks with friends in the woods around Chewonki, sitting at the waterfront, and gathering Saturday nights for coffeehouses…I also found solace in the time I spent alone. We did 48-hour solos in the woods. Q: Do you feel that your semester program changed you at all…? A: Something that someone at Chewonki said was that “semester school doesn’t change students; rather, it makes them more themselves.” I fully agree with this statement. I have become more confident in voicing opinions in and out of the classroom. I have learned how to care for myself even when difficult things happen around me, and I have learned how to be happy. I know this sounds super cheesy, but it’s true…Academically speaking, I think that I have also changed…I have become a more aware student and one who looks at every side of the story rather than just the one at hand. Q: Would you recommend the program…? A: I definitely would recommend the program to other students…it would be a great opportunity for someone who wants to expand their knowledge in environmental science, further their appreciation for the outdoors, and push their boundaries…Even if a student does not think they are outdoorsy enough or enough into environmental science, I would say it is more about the attitude with which one approaches the experience. To attend Chewonki, one has to have an open mind to think differently in a classroom than they ever have before, do things like 2:00 a.m. barn check to see if the ewes are giving birth, sleep outside in 19-degree weather, not because you have to, but because you want to. Chewonki isn’t easy, but it’s perfect for someone who is up for pretty much any challenge.