by: Emily Grudzien
The sheer granite cliffs spotted with vibrant conifers stood out against the overcast skies as our guide skillfully maneuvered us into a calmer stretch of water. The legacy of the Hudson’s mighty waters around us outweighed the immense strength of the rapids themselves. While the entirety of our focus centered on the landscape, our guide broke the pensive silence with a gregarious question: “Do you guys still eat at Sergi’s?”
Brad, our whitewater rafting guide for our trip down the Hudson River this past Saturday, shared a connection not only to our favorite pizza spot in Canton, but also to our university itself. His sister graduated from SLU in 2009, and his own alma mater is the neighboring SUNY Potsdam. And Brad wasn’t the only SLU connection we made that day. One of the other rafting guides, also a SLU grad, greeted us in friendly fashion: “Did I hear you all were SLUzers?”
Meeting random people with SLU connections is a common phenomenon for students from our university. For such a small school, SLU seems to have a disproportionately large and enthusiastic alumni network. One of the biggest misconceptions about the Adirondack Semester is that by living in Arcadia (our off-campus, off-the-grid yurt village), we are not participating in the St. Lawrence community. However, as we have learned during the first week here, Arcadia is simply a microcosm of the larger student body. We are still engaging as Laurentians by participating in the community from afar.
This first week has taught us a lot about our new community and the systems it takes to keep it running smoothly. We had each of our five classes for the first time this week. We’re adjusting to this new academic schedule, with longer class periods that only meet once a week, which means that students are starting to learn how to manage their time by balancing activities like going in the sauna or jumping out of canoes with finishing a reading for our Creative Expressions of Nature class. This week also featured our first round of community chores, involving such tasks as cleaning community spaces and raking our lovely composting toilet, dubbed the “Clive.” After chores, we were rewarded with our first town run to Tupper Lake. It was a short-lived, jam-packed adventure, with highlights including laundry, tasty donuts, and some stylish thrift store finds. We continued in that adventurous spirit on Sunday, as students used their free time to hike Mt. Arab, to bike and run on the miles of trails around Lake Massawepie, or to paddle across the lake to Gannett Lodge.
Most importantly, we spent this week cultivating our community here at Arcadia. It is a vibrant one, filled with lots of jokes, Shrek imitations, and John Denver singalongs around the campfire. When asked about the importance of community, Adirondack Semester Director, Cathy Shrady said, “Community helps people feel like they belong, which is an essential human need.” In addition, the tight-knit feel of Arcadia challenges the common narrative of the “lone outdoorsperson” who ventures into the wilderness seeking isolation and an escape from society. In contrast, we have found that the absence of technology and our remote location does not isolate us; instead, it allows us to form bonds without distractions and friends without phones.
All twelve of us come from different backgrounds but share a common bond as Laurentians. Like the raft guides we met this weekend, there is an unspoken understanding between us. We came for different reasons and we’ll leave with different results, but for now we are a community.