There are supposedly four steps to the formation of a new group: Form, Storm, Norm, and Perform. “Forming” is the initial high of new people’s company. “Storming” is when people begin to clash and make many mistakes, but also learn to adapt to each other and look out for them. I believe we have hit this “storm” phase. Despite the hurricane that was this week though, it looks like we’ll soon be able to “norm,” and later even be able to “perform” this sailing thing smoothly.

This first week passed in a whirlwind of slideshows, lectures, knots, drama, canoodling, swearing, plagues, and homework. It’s hard to believe that it only lasted a short seven days.

Aside from the social dynamics, classes have been giving students plenty to keep busy. Nautical Science has been a steady source of homework, and is unlike any other course I’ve taken. We’ve learned to locate ourselves using landmarks or stars, read and predict weather patterns, and set and strike sails for different situations. The class has long homework sets that involve laying on the floor over a full-size chart and calculating currents or positions. Along with learning many different knots, it’s a fascinating, yet demanding course.

Along with homework, students (now known as “shipmates”) also have to take care of ourselves. This includes forming chore groups, cooking, and shopping for ourselves. Although I’ve gone an entire semester off the meal plan, it’s been a little different cooking for a house of seven. What I would consider a completely acceptable meal, such as raw tofu and carrots, is not always appetizing to my housemates. I’ve actually had to look up recipes in my short time here. Following recipes has been an adjustment, believe me.

The first week has also been a bit of a crash-course in how to look out for fellow shipmates. The weekend was eventful. Some of the students on the program are gap-year students fresh from high school, and they took the opportunity to throw their first college party. Well, they certainly succeeded. Complete with barfing, canoodling, and drama, I’d call it a smashing success. Or a smashed success, at least.

By Monday, dehydration and regret hung over many a poor soul, and that was when the plague hit. Students fell like flies to a particularly nasty stomach bug, and from there, the rest of the healthy community started to succumb. There’s even been a rumor of bedbugs in one of the houses. It’s all just part of the normal process when a group settles into a new surrounding. It’s been teaching us to take care of ourselves and others, and the new microbiome that will emerge from it will be a stronger one, I guarantee it.

Despite the odds, I have managed to stay remarkably healthy. Others, in their attempt to get over sickness have been chugging gallons of water. This is not a good idea, and one student actually began hallucinating from lack of electrolytes, a condition known as hyponatremia. Luckily, an EMT-trained shipmate swooped in, and a few salty crackers later, all was well.

Yes. This first week was a bit of a hurricane. But an educational hurricane nonetheless. We’re beginning to learn how to take care of each other. So despite the rough start, I have confidence that as long as we tackle the coming weeks together, we can make it.

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