…in terms of climate and the natural surroundings:
The Glacier Bay Session is located at Inian Islands Institute, a remote field school on an island off the coast of Glacier Bay National Park. The setting is rustic and isolated – one of only two human establishments on the Inian Islands archipelago – and surrounded by the largest expanse of protected land on earth. Embedded in the coastal temperate rainforest of Southeast Alaska, summers are cool and rain is frequent. Much of our work, study, and recreation takes place out of doors, so be prepared not only to get wet, but also to move and hike on rugged terrain: through steep, pathless forest, across wet peat bogs, and along rocky coastline.
…in terms of campus life:
Think about the Glacier Bay Session like you would a study abroad program. We may operate in the United States, but rural Alaska is culturally distinct from much of America – especially its urban centers. Because our students come from all across the country, though, it is likely that you will have peers who share your experiences and your understanding of the world. In most cases, you will also have a fellow student who hails from your home institution.
Nevertheless, a study abroad program in Toronto or London may in fact feel closer to home than the program we offer. Expect to chop your the firewood that heats your living quarters. Expect the internet to be too spotty for Netflix. Expect to work closely with people who hold different political, religious, and cultural commitments than you. Just as if you were in a foreign country, we expect you to adapt to these new ways of being in the world. And we expect you to treat all community members with respect, humanity, and generosity.
….in terms of housing:
Students will live in the Student Bunkhouse. Downstairs is a porch, laundry and storage room, living area, kitchen, and changing room. An upstairs loft has twelve barracks-style bunk beds. Students should prepare for an intensely community-oriented living environment and a limited supply of personal space. Inian Islands Institute students use outhouses (both traditional and composting), available a very short walk from the Student Bunkhouse.
….in terms of work load:
Prepare to be busy. On your average weekday you are likely to spend 4 hours doing labor, 2-3 in class, and 1-2 on self-governance. And that’s not counting homework, independent projects, down time, meals, and sleep. The Glacier Bay Session will be fun, but it is also intense, challenging, transformative. You will be stressed sometimes. You may get less sleep than you want. You may wonder how you’re going to get everything done. But you won’t be alone. And you definitely won’t be bored.
…in terms of food and cooking:
Glacier Bay Session students will take most meals in the Main House, where breakfast and dinner are served daily. Students will also be able to pack a bag lunch each morning, which students can eat wherever they prefer. The kitchen in the student bunkhouse may be also be used to prepare lunch, snacks, and weekend meals. Student cooks will be largely responsible for preparing meals at the Main House as one rotation of the labor pillar, and will receive supervision and training to be able to perform that responsibility. The Arete Project can accommodate some but not all dietary restrictions; for instance, a vegetarian option will be available at every meal. It is much more challenging for us to accommodate students with severe allergies, especially those who will have a reaction just by being in the presence of a particular food. If you have questions about whether we can accommodate your dietary needs, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
…in terms of communication with the outside world:
Limited wifi will be available for student use in the Main House, but not in the Student Bunkhouse. There is no cell service on the island. A private room in the Main House will be made available for student phone calls. Students are encouraged to consider technology use as a question of isolation, and will have the authority to govern that usage within these parameters. Students will be able to send and receive mail on at least weekly basis through the post office at Elfin Cove. Students are not permitted guests during the course of the program.
…in terms of prior experience:
Some students will arrive at the Glacier Bay Session with more relevant experience in academics, labor, or self-governance than others. Some students may have majors that provide them with a better foundation for the coursework; others may already know how to weld, cook, or filet a fish; others may already have experience running meetings and organizing political bodies. If you are applying with a strong background in one or more of these areas, you should be aware that you will likely find yourself in an informal mentorship position vis-a-vis your fellow students. It is up to you to take advantage of that role, or to consciously step back to let others give it a try. Participants range in age from roughly from 19 to 23, so there is a range in terms of experience; you should not expect to come here to find that everyone is on equal footing in all areas. That said, since some people will be strong in certain areas and weak in others, there is great opportunity for and likelihood of reciprocal knowledge-sharing between students.
…in terms of physical health:
Work at the Arete Project is physically demanding, involving both strenuous labor and long hours of study. Over the course of the summer, students will be asked to chop firewood, paddle several miles in a day, and traverse steep and pathless terrain. And, as we’re located in a rainforest, you can expect to get rained on while doing any or all of that. While we are committed to working with students with physical limitations, we also ask that prospective students are realistic in thinking about what will be required of them this summer. All applicants must carry their own health insurance policies. Any applicant with questions is encouraged to contact us to talk with a staff member or former student.
Applicants with known health problems, including allergies and asthma, are encouraged to talk to their physicians and our staff about options for this summer. Students with severe food or environmental allergies (including to bee stings) are asked to contact us and to bring a supply of epi-pens.
There are medical resources on campus appropriate to a remote field station with no on-site physician. Two staff members are certified Wilderness First Responders, and we have arranged for a consulting nurse practitioner in Gustavus willing to have confidential skype consultations with students for minor medical issues. More severe medical issues may warrant a student’s overnight trip to the clinic in Gustavus or the hospital in Juneau. In an emergency, students will be Medevaced by boat, helicopter, or float plane to Juneau. Students are required to bring a five-week supply of all prescription medications with them. New prescriptions will be handled through the Gustavus clinic as needed.
…in terms of mental health:
The Arete Project is a high-stress environment, even for students with no history of mental illness. We highly recommend that prospective students with mental health challenges have a stable and effective treatment plan in place well in advance of arriving this summer. Students will have access to private space to talk on the phone to their counselors or therapists, and we can connect students to therapists in Juneau willing to provide consultations over the phone. No formal mental health services are available on-site, and mental health emergencies will be treated – like physical health emergencies – as cause for rapid evacuation to professional care.
…in terms of outdoor safety:
During program orientation students will undergo a thorough safety training to prepare them for physical dangers they may encounter. As we will use kayaks both for study and recreation, hypothermia and drowning pose the greatest risks to life and limb. Consequently all students must arrive at the program knowing how to swim, and orientation will include kayak safety and limited wilderness emergency response trainings. Two certified Wilderness First Responders will be present on-site and will accompany major wilderness outings.
On the island itself, wildlife poses a very small danger; there are no resident bear or wolf populations, though occasionally a brown bear will swim from the mainland to forage for berries. Longer expeditions may take us to Glacier Bay National Park or Chichagof Island, both of which have wolves and bears. In that case, students will be thoroughly trained on how to handle wildlife encounters.
…in terms of the local community:
The Glacier Bay Session will take place at Inian Islands Institute, a remote, living-learning field school based at the Hobbit Hole – a tidal inlet on the Inian Islands. The Hobbit Hole has a long history as an important community meeting place: first as a fish camp for the Tlingit people, then as a homestead in the early twentieth century, then as a fishing commune in sixties and seventies, and most recently as a private fishing lodge and B&B. Locals to this region, known as Icy Strait, may occasionally pass through the property. Especially in the event of unexpected bad weather, the Hobbit Hole has served as a port in the storm for fishermen working the Outer Coast, and in such incidents, we may receive unexpected visitors. We will also likely have scheduled visits from local experts to help bolster the labor and academic pillars of the program.