By EMILY BOGAN
Dear WiW 2017,
Thank you. The last six weeks have been some of the best of my life and it wouldn’t have been possible without the students, instructors, or beautiful classroom the Swan Valley provides. I am going to miss this place so much when I leave, but I can relax knowing I will be able to remember all of your beautiful faces when I hear the name ‘Montana.’ You all have left a lasting impression on me and I am a better and more patient person because of you. As lucky as you were to experience all the Swan Valley has to offer, it was equally as lucky to house you wonderful people as guests, who respected not only the land itself, but the human and non-human communities that call it home.
This group of students shared a bond like a true family. Together we bickered, laughed, and learned. Every member of our group brought something unique to the table, which made the entire experience more beneficial for everyone. Being jammed into the same space as 13 other students for six weeks presents its challenges, but you all handled it with smiles and laughter. I appreciate the time you dedicated to chores and making sure others space wasn’t hindered by your own living. Trust me when I say you are going to miss the homestead. You will miss the creaky beds and having to walk outside to get to the bathroom. You will miss trekking down to the cookhouse every day and being greeted by the quietness of a Montana morning or the jovial welcome of your classmates who got up before you. Not to mention bonding over dishes, creating landscape maps, and getting ‘rigged up’ - if you don’t already, you will miss it all. Dinners with less than 14 may feel odd for a week or two, and you may even be alarmed by being able to hear yourself think. “Back to reality” is such a bittersweet phrase when you know that WiW was your sweet reality for the past month. Keep in touch with each other. You have just met a group of people who share enough similarities to be willing to ship themselves to Montana for a summer; capitalize on that connection.
The enthusiasm brought by the instructors was unparalleled to any college course I have taken. Adam, Andrea, Jonathan, and Sara, you were the best bosses an intern could ask for. I truly appreciate all that you did for the students and myself to make sure we all had as many Montana moments time allotted. Hearing wolf pups howl, having cold mountain runoff seep in your waders, and solving riddles around a campfire are not experiences that most students will share with their teachers. These unorthodox memories make this program as a whole just as valuable as the academic knowledge gained from it. You all are such an invaluable resource and walking examples of academia and relatability. You are able to teach about the land effectively not only because you live on it, but because you care about it. This passion is seen in the ‘classroom’ and has made a huge difference in the quality of this learning environment.
I wish you all the best for the future and hope you will always remember what you learned in the Swan. As Andrea reminded us, go out there and find what you are willing to fall on your sword for. The program may be over, but if you ever want to chat, I am just a call away.
Resident Education Assistant