Eva Schiller

Eva Schiller

Eva Schiller ’21

Eva Schiller ‘21 is an assistant editor for the Pingry Record. She has been writing since freshman year and editing since sophomore year. She most enjoys writing and editing opinion articles, as they add a uniquely Pingry perspective to the paper. Her favorite things to do include writing poetry, eating candy corn, and enjoying scintillating conversations with the rest of the Record Staff at grind meetings. 

Latest from Eva Schiller:

Students Gain Alumni Insight on Career Day

Students Gain Alumni Insight on Career Day

By Vicky Gu (VI), Meghan Durkin (V), and Eva Schiller (V) On Friday, January 31, Form V and VI students attended Pingry’s annual Career Day, in which they were able to interact with a wide variety of Pingry alumni and gain insight into future career options.  The...

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History Department Welcomes Dr. Wakefield

History Department Welcomes Dr. Wakefield

Eva Schiller (V) As the new school year begins, Pingry is extremely fortunate to welcome Dr. Zachary Wakefield to the History Department. He attended Juniata College, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in history. He then went on to earn his M.A. and Ph.D at Auburn...

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Girls’ Ice Hockey Post-Season Update 2019

Girls’ Ice Hockey Post-Season Update 2019

By Eva Schiller '21 The girls’ ice hockey team, led by captains Clare Hall (VI) and Sophia Smith (VI), has powered through the season to finish with six wins and eleven losses. Despite having only thirteen members and facing large, competitive teams, the team has...

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Pingry Introduces Students from Quzhou to American Culture

Pingry Introduces Students from Quzhou to American Culture

By Eva Schiller '21 On the first day of Chinese New Year, Quzhou(衢州), China, was filled with warmth and gaiety. School and work went on break as people returned home to their families and celebrated the coming of the new year. But for twelve students from Quzhou...

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Selfishness as the Driving Force Behind Voting

Selfishness as the Driving Force Behind Voting

By Eva Schiller '21 On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I was dragged out of my room to watch the opening skit of Saturday Night Live. It was a rerun commenting on Kavanaugh's election by the Senate, and depicted Republican senators partying after the judge was...

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Dr. Chin-Shefi Joins Language Department

Dr. Chin-Shefi Joins Language Department

By Eva Schiller '21 This year, Pingry welcomed Dr. Sabrina Chin-Shefi into the Middle and Upper School Language Departments, where she will be teaching Chinese 2, Chinese 5, and Chinese 7. Eager to get more involved in the Pingry community, she has already explored...

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The Pingry Record Editorial Staff

Noah Bergam '21

Editor-in-Chief

Brynn Weisholtz '20

Editor-in-Chief

Meghan Durkin '21

Assistant Editor

Eva Schiller '21

Assistant Editor

Vicky Gu '20

Senior Assistant Editor

Dr. Megan Jones

Faculty Advisor

Ms. Meghan Finegan

Faculty Advisor

Justin Li '21

Layout Editor

Andrew Wong '22

Assistant Layout Editor

Rhea Kapur '21

Photo Editor

Kyra Li '23

Photo Editor

Martha Lewand '20

Copy Editor

Brian Li '22

Copy Editor

Dean Koenig '21

Copy Editor

Brooke Pan '21

Copy Editor

Aneesh Karuppur '21

Copy Editor

Aneesh Karuppur

Aneesh Karuppur

Aneesh Karuppur ’21

Aneesh Karuppur (’21) is a Copy Editor for the Record. He joined the staff in his sophomore year. He writes a regular Tech Column and contributes commentary on how the school can better the student experience. Aneesh enjoys reading about and debating technology, science, and current events. He plays the French Horn, viola, and violin. 

Latest from Aneesh Karuppur

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The Pingry Record Editorial Staff

Noah Bergam '21

Editor-in-Chief

Brynn Weisholtz '20

Editor-in-Chief

Meghan Durkin '21

Assistant Editor

Eva Schiller '21

Assistant Editor

Vicky Gu '20

Senior Assistant Editor

Dr. Megan Jones

Faculty Advisor

Ms. Meghan Finegan

Faculty Advisor

Justin Li '21

Layout Editor

Andrew Wong '22

Assistant Layout Editor

Rhea Kapur '21

Photo Editor

Kyra Li '23

Photo Editor

Martha Lewand '20

Copy Editor

Brian Li '22

Copy Editor

Dean Koenig '21

Copy Editor

Brooke Pan '21

Copy Editor

Aneesh Karuppur '21

Copy Editor

Boys’ Swimming Update 2019-2020

By Justin Li (V)

The Pingry boys’ swim team, led by captains Reid McBoyle (VI) and Will Stearns (VI), is looking forward to what they hope will be another dominant season. Following an undefeated 2018-2019 season, training for the upcoming season is in full swing. After the academic day ends, the pool is filled with Pingry swimmers undertaking sets of various pace, distance, and stroke, which usually total about 3000 meters. The intervals Head Coach Steve Droste and Coach Kevin Schroedter set ensure that every swimmer is consistently pushed to their limit.

McBoyle, who says that he’s “really excited for this season,” believes that this year’s squad is “a strong team with a lot of depth and the potential for another very successful season.” Their goals are the same as last year: win the Skyland Conference Championship, Prep Championships, and Meet of Champions against other strong teams, including Delbarton and Pennington. In addition to their success at meets, the swimmers want to continue filling the record board with new names and maintain Big Blue’s status as one of the best teams in the state.

Cast and Crew Puts On Amazing Performances of This Year’s Fall Play Our Town

Cast and Crew Puts On Amazing Performances of This Year’s Fall Play Our Town

By Ashleigh Provoost (IV)

This year, the Pingry Drama Department performed the play Our Town for its annual fall production, holding performances on November 7th and 9th. Written by Thornton Wilder and directed by Mrs. Stephanie Romankow, the play follows the life of Emily Webb and George Gibbs. These two neighbors experience everything together: growing up, falling in love, and eventually dying. The play is set in a small town called Grover’s Corners in New Hampshire. It explores the seemingly mundane activities in life, and how the small details of the world are what make it worth living. A play within a play, this show is narrated by eight stage managers: Corbey Ellison (VI), Nina Srikanth (VI), Lily Arrom (V), Alex Kaplan (V), Adelaide Lance (V), Sydney Stovall (V), Natalie DeVito (IV), and Ram Doraswamy (VI). As these narrators open and close the show, they leave the audience with a warm feeling of nostalgia, as well as the realization that each moment is instrumental making one’s life unique and beautiful. 

Act I begins in Grover’s Corners, as the audience observes a typical morning for the Gibbs’ and Webbs’ families. Mrs. Gibbs (Cal Mahoney, V) tries to stop her children, George (Stuart Clark, VI) and Rebecca (Charlotte Schneider, IV), from fighting. Her husband, Dr. Gibbs (Josh Thau, VI), returns from an early morning call. Meanwhile, Mrs. Webb (Sonia Talarek, VI) makes sure her children, Emily (Helen Baeck-Hubloux, VI) and Wally (Ronan McGurn, III), exhibit good table manners. Their father, Mr. Webb (Jonathan Marsico, V), is at work. Act I allows the audience a glimpse into the daily life of a Grover’s Corners resident.

Act II is centered around George and Emily’s wedding. This includes a flashback of when both characters realized they were meant to be with one another; after a long talk over ice cream sodas in Mr. Morgan’s (Lily Arrom, V) drugstore, they admitted their feelings for one another and decided to get married soon after their high school graduation. The act ends with a captivating wedding celebration.

The play transitions into Act III, which takes the audience through Emily’s sudden death during childbirth. As she joins the world of the dead, she realizes just how much she loved being alive and spending time with family and friends. The audience joins her as she revisits her 12th birthday and reflects on how fast life truly goes by.

The performances were the culmination of two strenuous months of rehearsals and set building, and they showcased the efforts of over 50 students. Along with Mrs. Romankow and head stage manager Lindsay Cheng (VI), new faculty members Mr. Joseph Napolitano and Ms. Emma Barakat were heavily involved in the production. Ms. Baraket played the crucial role of head carpenter. Mr. Napolitano, who was the lead set designer, greatly enjoyed his first Pingry production. He described Our Town as “a true example of collaboration, and the perfect first project for [him] to work on at Pingry.” Reflecting on the past few months, he adds: “Working with the design & tech crew, Mr. Van Antwerp, and Mrs. Romankow was a joy. I believe all of our work blended together in a delightful way.” 

Mr. Napolitano was not the only one to note the production crew’s strong sense of community. Adelaide Lance remarked that “[The show] was amazing! We’re truly all one big family.” For some, however, the fall play marked the beginning of the end. Stuart Clark, having completed his final fall play, reminisces about acting at Pingry: “It was all so special. The Drama Department has given me a lot over my four years at Pingry. I’m really grateful that I had the opportunity to act alongside people that mean a lot to me.”


A New Version of History

By Brian Li (IV)

“What’s even the point of history class? Nothing actually matters now.”

Last year, I took the World History 9 course, a survey of “history from the emergence of civilization in ancient Mesopotamia to the Age of Exploration.” I thought it was a fascinating class, but evidently, at least one other student didn’t share my sentiments. I’ve heard people call it “boring” or “not important” due to the “ancient” part of this ancient history class. Could a change of the time period remedy this issue?

The history curriculum at our school is now undergoing a complete overhaul, which began this school year. The first remake has been for World History 9, which now covers the years 1200-1914. Next year, World History 10 will pick up from the year 1900 and end in 2001. When asked about the reason behind removing ancient history from the curriculum, History Department Chair Dr. Jones said, “more modern history seems to resonate with students more, and we wanted to get students interested in the study of history, while ancient history, especially philosophy, doesn’t have as much resonance with students.”

Ancient history can seem boring or unimportant to some people, as what happened so long ago seems too far away to affect our lives. Written history was scant, leaving historians to search in vain for the next clue to unlock the secrets of an ancient empire. Modern history is much more recent and relevant to the present day because its revolutions and wars have shaped our lives. We can see the effects that specific events have caused, which can cause students to feel that modern history is much more important and pertinent. Students then may be more interested in modern history, increasing the amount of engagement and activity in class.

However, the revised World History 9 and previous World History 10 curriculums overlap significantly this year, with both courses essentially offering the same material as implementing two new courses within the same year is nigh impossible. Ancient history has been removed from the high school history curriculum, leaving students without the foundational knowledge of civilization and how the Western world rose to power.

Modern history is extremely relevant and is crucial to learn, but I believe that we cannot simply push ancient history to the side. The complexity of modern European history is extremely challenging and demands a thorough understanding. Without a foundational knowledge of how the West became the dominant power, students may not fully comprehend Europe’s reign of dominance and the events that occurred during this time.

Another key issue to consider is Eurocentrism, which is a major concern facing both teachers and students. From my experience in the now-defunct World History 9, the class did not overly focus on one specific country or continent; instead, it provided a broad but thorough explanation of early history. Indeed, according to its class description, the course focused on “developments in the Middle East, the ancient Mediterranean, Asia, Africa, pre-Columbian America, and medieval Europe, culminating with the European Renaissance and Reformation and the beginnings of the modern world.” In contrast, my experience in World History 10 so far is one that is primarily centered around Europe or the Western world. The revised World History 9 course now begins with the Mongol civilization, the bridge between the East and West, so freshmen will not be exposed to the many non-European civilizations, such as Mesopotamia, that preceded this era. Therefore, this Eurocentrism, or absence of the history of certain key regions and civilizations, may lead students to believe that Europe was always the dominant continent throughout history. 

Fortunately, the History Department is working towards preventing the freshman history course from being too Eurocentric, with an explicit focus on the global aspect of World History.  

The revised history curriculum is also beneficial in allowing students to pursue a more specialized education. Speaking on why the ancient history sections were removed, Dr. Jones said,  “it’s always a struggle between depth versus breadth; if you cover a ton, can you study anything in-depth? It’s a constant struggle.” By removing ancient history, students will most likely have one more year or semester to take focused courses on specific topics, such as Asian History. This is a tremendous opportunity to learn something in-depth, once again going back to the depth versus breadth conflict. For those of us that truly are passionate about ancient history, an elective course on the topic can be created. This elective would cover the same time period as the old World History 9 course but in much greater detail. Therefore, students that are enthusiastic about this subject will have the chance to learn what they love, further increasing the engagement and involvement in history. 

History is a subject that requires active student engagement. Despite my captivation with ancient history, I understand that many other students simply weren’t interested in the old World History 9 course. 

Is ancient history necessary? I’m not sure, but I’m willing to put it aside for the benefit of all. Maybe it’s time we focus on the future instead of the past.

The Value of Humanities in the 21st Century

The Value of Humanities in the 21st Century

By Andrew Wong (IV)

Last year, my history teacher started the year with a thought experiment. He told our class, “History is irrelevant. If the only reason why we learn history is not to repeat the mistakes of the past, then in today’s world, it is useless and everything you learn in this class is irrelevant. You’re much better off taking useful subjects like science and math.”

I was taken aback by this statement. History has always been one of my favorite subjects, and I have always enjoyed learning about various civilizations and how past events have shaped the world today.

Now, I was told, by a history teacher, that the subject I loved the most was useless. It was being slowly replaced by new cutting edge STEM subjects. In a similar vein, at the beginning of my English class this year, we discussed the waning role of English and other humanities subjects in our modern world, especially as STEM subjects take center stage in schools. 

STEM is incredibly important in our world today, and it is crucial that students learn these types of  skills in order to have success in our modern world. Pingry has recognized the importance of STEM subjects and has successfully created a comprehensive science curriculum, which teaches students everything from the mechanisms of cancer to advanced physics. Research opportunities also offer Pingry students access to cutting edge science, whether it be through their science classes, the molecular biology research class, or the many IRT projects offered. Pingry’s technology labs are also similarly well equipped, with brand new laser cutters, 3D printers, and VR tech.

Needless to say, Pingry’s investment in STEM has paid off. Pingry was ranked by Newsweek as 150th out of the top 500 STEM schools across America. Although this is great news for Pingry, much of this success has come at the expense of the humanities.

In our STEM driven world, the humanities still play an important role in the development and growth of human society. It was humanities that brought our civilization out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance with the re-discovery of Ancient Greek and Roman teachings. Humanities allow us to understand ourselves better and teach individuals how to think creatively and critically. Whether it is poetry or the arts, humanities allow us to learn more about the human condition. That is something STEM cannot do.

Pingry’s efforts to make sure humanities are just as important as STEM subjects have been successful this year. With the expansion of HIRT, humanities at Pingry are being refreshed. HIRT serves as a means for students to apply techniques learned from STEM subjects to humanities, which brings a fresh perspective to humanities at Pingry. New groups this year include Russian Literature, Gentrification in Jersey City, and many more new and exciting projects. As a member of the Children’s Literature HIRT, I have so far enjoyed this new approach to humanities, and together with my group, I have conducted intensive research into altruism in young children using stories collected from lower schoolers at Short Hills.

This new fusion of STEM and Humanities is an excellent model of how humanities can be taught to students effectively in the 21st century. By combining both techniques learned from STEM fields and applying them to humanities, this can be an effective way of teaching students the value of humanities through a new lens.

At the end of my freshman year, we did an exercise in my history class where we again discussed the purpose of studying history and other humanities subjects. My class decided that humanities are important because they enable us to understand other people and cultures through learning about the human condition and people’s experiences. Whether it is reading stories or poems, learning about history, or making art, humanities allow us to learn about what makes us human, and helps us discover the accomplishments of the past, understand the world we live in, and arms us with the tools to build the future. The importance of humanities cannot be forgotten as we move deeper into this century, and I applaud Pingry’s steps to teach humanities to students in a cutting edge and modern way.


Solving the Issue of Poorly Timed Assessments at Pingry

By Maile Winterbottom (V)

As a Pingry student, I experience a lot of stress. From essays to tests to presentations to quizzes, the work never seems to stop piling on. However, there is a common theme in the stress that my peers and I experience: poor timing. 

Over the past few years, I’ve started to notice that assessments come in big stressful waves, usually lasting a week or so. One week might be pretty uneventful, with a lull in big assessments and stress levels on the decline. Then, before you know it, you have six tests in one week, not to mention a paper due for English class. Looking at my planner, plenty of weeks are completely covered in the red ink that signifies a large test or essay, while others are almost empty of it. This led me to ask myself: why can’t all of this work be divided up evenly between the weeks?

Students at Pingry are constantly caught between two extremes– weeks packed with work followed by others with almost none – at the expense of their mental health, free time, and success in school. During busier weeks, the challenge for dividing one’s time among different assignments becomes greater than ever. Instead of being able to focus on one thing and achieve success in that area, students are forced to ask themselves: “Should I study for my math test or should I finish my English paper?” This conflict can cause students to do poorly on some assignments when in reality, they just didn’t have enough time. Some may argue that time management isn’t all that hard, and that students should just buck up and bear the weight of these stressful weeks. However, we are often given short notice about assignments, and even with proper notice, too many tests can still leave students in sticky situations. 

If more consideration was put into the timing of tests, there would be numerous benefits for students and teachers alike. Students could put more attention into individual assignments and perform better, rather than just throwing as much time as possible into a heaping pile of essays and tests. Teachers would then see a more realistic evaluation of a student’s knowledge. Most of all, students’ stress would decrease if their large assessments were divided up more evenly.

To improve assessment timing, I suggest creating new rules similar to the Three-Assessment Rule (if you have three major assessments in one day, you can opt to move one of them). One possible rule could be: if students have more than five assessments in a week, they can opt to move one of them to the next week. Especially leading up to breaks, where students are faced with six or seven assessments in a week, this rule could benefit the community greatly. Another possible addition could be a universal day each week where assessments are prohibited. This would give students a “day off”, allowing them to study up on assessments they have in following days.

With the faculty’s goal for this year being student wellness, poorly timed assessments is a problem that needs to be solved. However, if given enough attention, addressing this issue has the potential to benefit Pingry as a whole. It would certainly be a big step towards improving the mental health and wellness of students.

The World We Live In

By Mirika Jambudi (III)

The world I’m growing up in scares me to death. It seems like everywhere I look there is something to be afraid of. In fact, I’m almost fifteen and I just got permission this summer to ride my bike to my friend’s house. It’s only two blocks away, but I understand why. The world I’m growing up in is scary because it’s dangerous. I can’t tell you that it’s more dangerous than any other period in human history, but I can tell you this: we’re certainly more aware of it. The news flashes every day with new stories of gunmen, arson, murder, and scandal in our very own White House. That shadow in the corner of my eye, that’s danger. The creak on the stairs when I’m home alone, that’s danger. This constant fear bleeds into every single aspect of my life.

In school, we’ve had lockdown drills for as long as I can remember. An announcement is made, so we lock the doors, draw the blinds, huddle in the corner, and stay as silent as possible. For those 4-7 minutes, I examine my best friend’s shoelaces intently. I imagine what I would do, if at that very moment, the drill was real and a shooter barged into the classroom. I count the bricks on the wall. I wonder if this is what it felt like to live during the Cold War, diving under desks to take cover at the prospect of nuclear war. Then, I wonder why people believed that a wooden desk could stop an atomic bomb. Probably, I think, for the same reasons we draw the blinds and lock the doors. Ever since the shooting in Parkland, Florida, though, something has changed. Everything feels more real. The idea of a school shooting used to be almost nonexistent. Something that happened to those poor kids in Sandy Hook, but could never happen to us. 

But the national uproar 5,000 miles away brought about changes reaching all the way to Pingry. Now, we have more detailed lockdown procedures. Recently, we had an assembly describing safety procedures, and our newly installed lockdown buttons in case of an emergency. We know what to do during lunch, during time between classes. We know that if there’s an emergency, we are to go into the nearest open classroom, let as many kids in as possible, lock all the doors, and hide. The threat has become omnipresent. It’s not far away and vague anymore, but something that could actually happen to us. Even in the bathroom stalls, the inner doors are plastered with laminated posters explaining what to do if someone is in the bathroom while a lockdown is in progress. It tells me what keywords to listen for to make sure the all-clear is legitimate. The danger of a school shooting stares me in the face while I use the bathroom. It’s an unfading feeling of unease, present even when I’m walking down the hall with a friend, goofing off like an average pair of freshmen. I see the security guards on duty keeping an eye on everything, watching for any signs of suspicious activity. I understand why they are there, of course, but it reminds me that nowhere is safe. 

I live in the epitome of suburbia, so it’s strange to have this fear everywhere I go. We have become desensitized to shootings and gun violence, and barely react to the now daily reports of shootings. Everywhere is unsafe: first movie theaters, coffee shops, and retail stores, and now schools. For me, school is a place I look forward to going every day; however, some days, when I step off of that yellow Kensington bus, I feel afraid of the unknown, and I concoct imaginary emergency scenarios in my head. I have my parents on speed dial, as a “just-in-case.” I have a message in the notes section of my phone for my loved ones, should something actually happen to me, though the chances are slim. I really shouldn’t have to worry about this; I’m just your average high school freshman trying not to fail Spanish and science, binging rom-coms and Disney movies in her free time. We shouldn’t have to worry that when we leave our houses in the morning for school, it might be the last time our parents see us alive. 

Our government should have stepped up on gun policies and implemented stricter gun laws years ago, right after the incident at Sandy Hook. How many more lives must be lost until our government takes charge? Our nation needs action, and it is long overdue. 

Dress Codes in the Sky

Brynn Weisholtz (VI)

As I boarded the plane and walked to my seat, I paid little attention to the people surrounding me––I was unaware of who they were, how they looked, and where they were going. I placed my carry-on bag in the compartment above my head, took my seat, secured my seatbelt, inserted my airpods and chose my favorite playlist; I was settled in and ready for a relaxing flight. It’s odd––every individual has their own life, in which they make their own choices, have their own opinions, and live with their own consequences. As such, we rarely think about strangers because we are so consumed with our own existences. 

But on this flight, I thought about the person three rows ahead of me en route to our sunny destination.

Listening to my downloaded Spotify playlist, my song was interrupted by a loud disturbance, an escalating conversation between a passenger and a United Airlines representative. I wasn’t sure what the argument was about. Was it a seating issue? Was the passenger on the wrong plane? Did she possess a liquid more than the permitted 1.7 ounces? All I could deduce was that something very serious was going on. 

The stranger in row 7 became a topic for most of the passengers on the plane. People were suddenly interested in something other than their magazines and music. What we came to learn is that this woman entered the aircraft as every other paying passenger did, and was asked to leave the plane because of her clothing. Her crime was wearing a tube top. Apparently, exposing one’s midriff on a United Airlines flight is against the company’s dress code and results in removal from the aircraft. How could this be? She wasn’t unclothed. I didn’t find her outfit tasteless, especially since I had, on multiple occasions, boarded a United Airlines flight wearing some variation of that outfit; actually, on that very flight, I, too, donned leggings and a tube top; however my stomach was covered by a zippered sweatshirt, for the sole purpose of staying warm inflight.  I was actually shocked that this was an issue, as I had never even heard about a dress code for a flight. After some research, I located the United Airlines Dress Code, which bans attire like swimwear and mini skirts.

While, I understand the necessity for some of these restrictions, whether it be to safeguard people from derogatory words or protect passengers from clothing deemed hazardous by the airline (i.e., open toes shoes or barefoot), I do question the implementation of the airline’s dress code when deciding what makes an outfit fit for travel. This passenger was not offered a complimentary shirt or article of clothing, nor was she provided with a blanket to wrap around her exposed area. Rather, she was forced to forgo her seat and return to the terminal. United Airlines did not care that she would be missing out on her vacation or that she paid for this flight and hotel accommodations. All that seemed to be of importance was that her clothing was out of dress code for the flight. 

This inherently begs the question: how can our society, which preaches freedom of expression, dictate what we as people wear when it is not offensive nor harmful?  Limiting a person’s clothing choices in a public arena is in opposition to a freedom we hold in high regard in America. And the lack of compassion expressed by the employees for the passenger and the situation was equally as shameful in my opinion. I am confident that the woman did not choose to wear a tube top to blatantly defy the airline’s policy. On the contrary, she likely chose her outfit for the same reasons I chose my outfit that morning….it was comfortable.

Winterbottom Reaches New Heights in Iceland

Winterbottom Reaches New Heights in Iceland

Maile Winterbottom (V)

In the midst of some last-minute scrambling to put my summer plans together last April, I quickly scrolled through possible programs and trips I could attend. I came across a two week trip to Iceland held by Overland Summers, a program that takes kids on trips led by college students. It was a backpacking trip, something I was interested in undertaking, and I was up for the challenge. So I clicked “register” and embarked on the journey.

When the day came for me to leave, I was a nervous wreck. I wondered what I got myself into. I thought my two years as an avid Pingry Outing Club participant would prepare me for this, but as the trip grew closer, the thought of strapping my belongings to my back for two weeks in a foreign country felt like something I could never do. Nevertheless, I hopped on the plane to Reykjavik (Iceland’s capital) with my half broken-in hiking boots and didn’t look back. 

As soon as I met my group of nine other high school students and two college students (who led the trip), my anxiety that had built up over the weeks prior seemed to dissipate. We settled down at a campsite in Reykjavik on our first night and prepared for the next week, which we would spend backpacking. We would through-hike the Laugavegur trek, a fifty-mile trail popular among tourists in Iceland. I had never done anything like it before.   

Although the nerves were sinking in, the girls that I had met just a day ago were already turning out to be my close friends. We talked about our lives back home, our concerns for the trip, how much we missed home, and so much more. There were four girls including me on the trip, and every night we would go into a tent and talk for at least an hour about everything that happened that day, and any other things that were on our mind. 

When we arrived at the start of the Laugavegur trek, my anxiety for backpacking had returned, especially after our leaders told us that the first day would be the hardest day of the trip, with ten miles of ground to cover and many difficult uphills. My pack was heavy with food for the group, my clothes for the next week, my tent, and my sleeping bag (weighing forty pounds altogether!). As it turned out, the forty pounds on my back didn’t hold me back from having a great first day on the trail. The ten miles, although difficult, left me feeling accomplished, and the views added to my sense of achievement. When we got to the second campsite, we had pad thai for dinner and played cards, as we continued to bond with our group.

The rest of the trip proved to be one of the most breathtaking and formative experiences I’ve ever had. I met so many different people from different backgrounds and hearing their stories brought me to tears on several occasions. The trail was tough, but it brought us together as a group. Sometimes, completing even the smallest obstacles, like crossing a river or making it to the top of a steep hill, were so gratifying for me. At the end of every day, when I would take off my pack and look back on the miles I just hiked, I thought of the songs I sang, the stories I told and heard, and even the lunch I had, all the while thinking of how grateful I was to be in such a beautiful place. 

My trip to Iceland left me feeling humbled by the outdoors and even more appreciative of our environment. In addition, I made some great bonds with the people on my trip who I’m still in contact with. The raw beauty of everything I saw along the way was incomparable to anything I’ve ever seen and taught me more than I have ever learned in the classroom, with concrete walls and fluorescent lighting. It made me realize the importance of embracing nature and taking that leap into the unknown.