We are on stolen land. Thank you Muwekma Olhone for hosting us.

 I walk into an orange room on Valencia St. with my suitcase and airplane hair. I am immediately greeted by the staff and soon walk over to where my new peers are chatting. I say “hi” to another girl getting a Trader Joe’s snack on the table, and am struck by how at ease and mature everyone seems.  Conversation is easy as we all share a bit about ourselves.

We come from New York, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Washington D.C., New Jersey, and California.  Some of us travel often to family abroad and others have never been out of the country.  We go to a mix of universities across the country and study everything from Studio Art to Sustainable Management.  After introductions, we fumble into vans and drive south of San Francisco to Point Montara. 

Our first morning together we are awakened by a fuchsia sunrise.  For most of us, this is our first time seeing the Pacific. Waves lap at the cliffs, birds dive for fish, and our cohort sits facing the Pacific.  Is this the edge of the world?  I think, despite knowing the Earth is round.  

In each country, we start with a two-day orientation.  In America, our orientation consists of the handbook, an academic overview, and going over who’s who in the program.  We each share our “life’s poster” in a five-minute presentation.  Each of us has a different life story bringing us to this place.  Camilo comes from a big Columbian family, Patience studied in Ghana over winter break, Emma loves photography, and Kaycia calls her mom “Boo Boo Kitty”.  We start establishing community guidelines and make committees, like the wellness committee and the lit committee, and in doing so get to learn a bit more about the fifteen people we will be with for the next four months.  

After two days soaking in the sounds of the waves and the gentle Northern California sunshine, we return to San Francisco and check into our hostel in the Tenderloin.