This time three years ago, I was getting ready to transfer to boarding school. I spent August writing and rewriting my packing list, shopping for dress code clothes (khakis were a shift from the sweatpants of my public school days), and combing through my new school’s website and Instagram for any clue towards what my new life would be like.
This August is a lot like that of 2015. I have a detailed packing list in Excel, I’m leafing through my closet for comfortable and reliable clothes to bring to Ecuador, and I’m obsessing over GCY’s website and social media pages, eagerly awaiting my site placement.
The main difference is that in 2015, my school was 45 minutes from home; I didn’t even leave Middlesex County. This time around, I’m preparing a move to Ecuador, a country I’ve never been to on a continent I’ve never set foot on. But the lessons I learned when I got to boarding school will still apply this September.
Before I moved into my dorm for as a new sophomore, I’d texted my roommate a couple times, and I knew which classes I’d be taking. Beyond that, there was much to learn: that the lunch line was crazy long on Thursdays, a casual English paper was at least four pages, and one could usually find a certain Latin teacher walking his dogs around Hundred House before breakfast. As I grew more comfortable in my new environment, I found myself becoming fluent in Groton lingo: “form” means “grade;” the first few rows in chapel are the “fan section,” and the dining hall is not the cafeteria. Even the seniors in my Spanish class accepted me into their fold. By the time I finished my first round of exams in November, I had a hard time remembering how confusing the Schoolhouse had looked when I first arrived.
My first move-in day! From left: my Meredith, me, my mom, and my brother, Gus
I integrated myself into my New England prep school without giving up who I am—a sneaker-wearing, bad joke-spewing grammar enthusiast—which bodes well for my next big transition. That said, I faced a steep learning curve when it came to sharing a dorm room, and I expect the learning curve in my new community to be even steeper. Ecuador will probably be more different from home than Groton was—one would think—but I’ll have to do all the same things: make do with the limited vegan options, find my way around, fold myself into a new home. In the end, I wore the same funny hat as everyone else on Prize Day (graduation), but in the three years leading up to then, I had my quirks: I went to bed early on Saturday nights, and I made a name for myself working with the dining hall staff to stock healthy peanut butter. I’ll stick out in my new community in Ecuador for other reasons (though I wouldn’t be surprised if peanut butter were involved), but I have faith that I’ll find my niche the way I did at prep school.
See? Funny hats!
Not knowing the details of where I’ll be in Ecuador can get a bit overwhelming, especially when it comes to packing. But that’s who I am; I relish having details and plans. And there are a few things I do know, which I find comforting: I’ll keep writing, for one thing, and cracking bad jokes (Spanish puns—that’s when you know you’re fluent). When the unknown gets intimidating, I remind myself that I’ve done this all before. No, Ecuador isn’t boarding school, but Groton felt pretty darn foreign when I first arrived.