The Real World | St. Lawrence University Adirondack Semester

The Real World

by: Jordan Tanguay
 &
Ned Hallahan

Throughout the week, we Arcadians were anxious to see our families and friends at Friday night’s family dinner, which was a resounding success. Additionally, many of us were excited to return to the so-called “real world,” which for most of us meant returning to the big city of Canton, New York, at some point during the weekend. We were excited to experience all the modern comforts of which we’ve been deprived: phones, beds, showers, heat, and all the friends from which we’ve been separated for the past few months. Despite the happiness of reconnecting with our friends, upon returning to campus many of noticed a drastic difference between the culture on campus and the culture we’ve established at Arcadia.

Although excellent, the fancy cheese, fresh vegetables, and the chickens we recently slaughtered were not the main reasons family dinner was so successful. Being able show our families the culture that we’ve established with our professors and tireless director team was the real highlight of the night. Shortly after we returned from a class field trip to the Adirondack Experience in Blue Mountain Lake, our families began to arrive at Gannett Lodge where the dinner was hosted. From there, many of us paddled our families across Lake Massawepie to our yurt village, Arcadia. We showed them how we had been living for the semester by giving them a tour of our yurts, the kitchen, the sauna, and our composting toilet, the Clive. Our tours didn’t just include the physical things that make up Arcadia; we shared with them our memories and introduced them to the people that make Arcadia special for us. After finishing our tours, we returned to Gannett Lodge where a delicious meal prepared by Adirondack Semester alumni awaited us. As we all sat down to eat together, we felt privileged to introduce our families to our Arcadian family.

After dinner we all went our separate ways. However, most of us eventually found ourselves back together, as part of a larger community, on St. Lawrence’s main campus. St. Lawrence is a special place for all of us, so it was hard to feel anything but happiness and excitement when we first arrived. Reconnecting with friends, taking a hot shower, and re-immersing ourselves in campus culture was a positive experience for many of us. Yet the more time some of us spent on campus, the more we developed a feeling that it had changed. Upon further reflection, though, many of us came to the conclusion that campus hasn’t changed as much as we have.

At Arcadia, it’s often easy to wish for the simplicities of modern life that we often deem necessary: hot water accessible with the turn of a tap; coffee available with the swipe of a card; and entertainment served up with the tap of a screen. When living in the modern world, many of us have craved a different type of simplicity: the satisfaction of bringing water from the lake; the comfort of making our own coffee in the morning; and the joy of the unique entertainment that we produce ourselves. It’s funny how experiencing the simplicity of campus life made us value the very different simplicity that we experience every day in Arcadia.

Fall break has highlighted how valuable an experience the Adirondack Semester has been for all of us—and for all those who have had the privilege to complete the program over the past several years. The place-based curriculum that is a key tenant of the semester not only puts St. Lawrence University on the map, so to speak, but it also makes us reflect on why places like the Adirondacks, Arcadia, and our own homes are special to us. When we asked Professor Glenn Harris, one of the original proponents of establishing the Adirondack Semester, about the value of learning about where you live, he shared this piece of wisdom: “You become emotionally attached to a place, which makes you feel responsible for your actions, and eventually you become a guardian for the place and the people who inhabit it.” At Arcadia, we’re currently guardians of the culture that we’ve established in our place. Although our lives may seem surreal, our experiences this semester translate just as well into our personal growth as any experience we may have in the so-called “real world.” In the future, upon our return to campus and the other larger communities that we inhabit, we will have a greater appreciation for our role as guardians of those communities’ cultural identities. At Arcadia we may be learning in a bit of a bubble, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t learning many valuable lessons. As our assistant director Will Madison wisely put it, “At the end of the day, this is the real world, too.”