BELL Schedule (Photo courtesy of Isa Lu)
Topsail High School

BELL Rhode Island: A reflection

Reporting from Bristol, R.I.

Like many others in my generation, I was born and raised in the big city, where skyscrapers dotted the skyline. The closest I could get to nature was either through my backyard or the local park.

To me, trees and flowers offered something different—and new—from the typical cycle of daily life. But it wasn’t until the first time I visited a national park that I finally realized that nature was the key factor I was missing all these years. Since then I have tried to move away from the urban lifestyle as much as possible, even to the extent of relocating to suburban areas.

Now, halfway through high school, I’ve decided to really reflect and immerse myself in nature by attending a two-week environmental leadership program (BELL) at Bristol, R.I. In the end, this experience has changed me on a personal level.

I have never been truly exposed to community life on this scale before. So naturally I was a little scared of what was to come and whether or not I would enjoy my time at camp. But living together with so many people who share the same interests has really opened my eyes on what it’s like to be a part of a community. It gave me a new sense of identity.

We did everything together: preparing meals, having fun, learning new things, sleeping in bunk beds inside tents, etc. I was also amazed by the speed everyone got to know each other, although it was probably partially due to the fact that we didn’t have our phones with us.

Going down to the beach at Haffenreffer Estate (Photo courtesy of Isa Lu)

This program provided me with a unique opportunity to actually live in nature and soak in the beauty of the natural world. I loved basking in the warm afternoon sun on the beach, building our own solar ovens, kayaking in the bay, quahogging for shellfish, hiking through trails, to name a few.

We spent most of our time outdoors working together on challenge courses and learning with different instructors. Thanks to them, I am now better at skills like identifying different plant species and picking out constellations in the night sky.

I have made friends from all across the world, and I am grateful for the strong bond that we have. After these two weeks, I have learned more about myself both as a peer and a fellow leader. Looking back on my growth as a person, this will definitely be a memorable experience.

BELL students (Photo courtesy of Em Yu)