There’s something equally exciting and terrifying when you’re the first to try something new. For junior Fayi Nshanji, the first Church Farm School student to participate in a “term-away” program, that adage has proven accurate. Fayi has spent the past four months at the High Mountain Institute (HMI) in Colorado; his “brother” Rafael Arellano will participate in the spring term. We caught up with Fayi via email (access to technology is limited, as you’ll soon find out) to learn more about this unique experience.
What intrigued you about applying to the term away at HMI?
Applying to a term away program was definitely nerve wracking, especially moving across the country to do something that you have never done before. But that is also what inspired me to apply to HMI: becoming comfortable being uncomfortable. Although I miss CFS, it has been a great experience to spend time away from a place I am so comfortable with to meet new people and to let myself be uncomfortable.
How was it adjusting to this wholly new environment with new peers, teachers and little access to technology?
It was fairly difficult for me coming into this new environment, and I spent the first couple of days being antisocial. But then I was sent into the literal woods (mountain ranges of Colorado) for 16 straight days with a group of 13 other people from across the US with no access to any technology. This forced me to interact with others and form connections that I never thought I would have formed in my life. By the end, I was close with my group and returned to campus where I gradually met new people, expanding my friend group.
It was interesting having a new teacher with a different teaching style and curriculum than that of CFS. I got to know my teachers at a personal level, seeing some of them at their worst moments and having deep and intentional conversations with each other.
Over the span of my time here I have had limited access to technology, tapped out from social media and world events. It might sound like a prison but it has been super beneficial not having my phone for the past four months. I have found ways to better spend my time and not be so reliant on a device in my pocket.
What is a typical day like for you?
Rather than having sports in the afternoon, HMI has the physical education requirement through AMEX which is essentially going on a morning run sometimes up to six miles. We wake up at 7:00 AM, run, shower and then breakfast is at 8. Starting at 8:30 we have morning chores for 20 minutes before classes (90 minutes each) begin at 9. I typically have 1-2 classes in the morning, then lunch and two more classes in the afternoon/evening. Classes can run until 5:30 but I have a few free blocks each day. At 6, we have dinner and then study hall from 7:15-9:15. After study hall you turn in your computer and are in your cabin by 9:45 with lights out at 10:30. With all the free blocks and managing homework efficiently, I wake up with close to nine hours of sleep each night.
What has been your favorite experience so far?
One of my favorite experiences was cooking outdoors. For each of our expeditions we were designated a cook crew with a group of 3 or 4. This cook crew was to split up the weight of the food carried in our packs and cook breakfast and dinner together with other people over a whisper light stove; it was the perfect time to get to know some people. The memories of the meal disaster, the inside jokes between cook crews and early morning wake ups to boil water were some of the highlights of my HMI experience.
Was there a time when you were especially homesick or finding it hard to push through? How did you get through it?
There was one distinct time I felt homesick. It was day four of my first expedition when I realized that I had no phone, no contact with the outside world and I was in the Colorado mountains backpacking with bipolar weather when I had not that long ago been outside in the summer heat playing basketball with friends. I missed my friends, family and my neighborhood. Additionally, I was doing something I had never done and backpacking was physically demanding especially with the altitude change. But I utilized the people around me giving me advice on how to make my life in the outdoors a little easier and making friends with my group around me.
What are you looking forward to most when you get back to CFS?
Coming back to CFS, I am most looking forward to seeing all my fellow Griffins once again and for the upcoming sports seasons.