On and Off Campus Blog: Maybe Bivouac isn’t so bad after all

January 31, 2024

By Scarlett Chan-MacRae ‘26

I have never loved the first day of school. When my friends were buzzing beforehand with
excitement of new teachers and seeing friends, I counted down the minutes until I would have to
leave the comfort of my home. Before BB&N, I had been going to the same school for nine
years. Even though I had done the first-day-routine nine times before, I still couldn’t shake the
growing dread in the pit of my stomach. Anxiety would run through my body as I inched closer
and closer to the place that would run my life for the next nine months.

With those past experiences, I assumed this first day of ninth grade was going to be a million
times worse. It was a new school with new people. Not only was I leaving the comfort of my
home, but also nine years worth of memories and built-up friendships. The worst part was that
this wasn’t any typical first day of school. Instead of meeting teachers and learning the school
layout, I was going to be thrown into the woods with a group of kids I didn’t even know, and I
was expected to not only survive, but thrive, for the next 11 days. This was Bivouac.

In this isolated mess of trees and fields was where I would meet the people I would be with for
four more years. I had been dreading this day for the long months of summer. As soon as I
hopped on the bus, I felt my heart pounding in my chest and my face heating up. Where was I
going to sit? It felt like everyone already made friends and I was all alone. And then a sweet girl
approached me. Like the light peeking through the clouds on a stormy day, she invited me to sit
with her.

We found out later that we would be in the same squad together.
Now, while most of Bivouac was a chaotic blur, I do remember some parts. I had never felt more
accepted in a new place. I’m not sure if it was the hard beds or lack of showers, but Bivouac, in a
way, humbled everyone. Even though the majority of the people already knew each other, being
put in an unfamiliar territory, no one had the security of location. It was almost like we were all
starting at square one.

It was liberating. The abiding feeling of dread of this new school and its quirky idea of a first day
of school began to lift.

We headed down to the lake every day for a morning cleansing. We had to carry our little soap
bottles with us, but I soon found out that there was nowhere to put the bottle once in the lake. I
then spotted a girl with pockets in her bathing suit. Fighting off every bit of apprehensiveness
that I had learned at my former school, I approached her. I awkwardly asked if I could use her
pockets. She’s now one of my closest friends at BB&N.
When a school has the unique idea of throwing away the model of a typical first day of school
and replacing it with 11 days of laboring, wilderness, and Dr. Bronner’s soap, it’s surprising how
well it can work.

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