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Tests of Mind and Body

Deerfield is notorious for hurling tasks at you that appear impossible. However, Deerfield is also famous for training its students well enough (through seemingly throwing us in the deep-end) that by the time four years is up, the finished product is self-disciplined and not too daunted by the prospect of a 12-page paper on Modernism.

This sense of rigorous academic discipline as well as a willingness to accept exceptionally hard tasks has proven not only useful, but necessary, as I press on through my gap year. Now four months in, I am working as a general assistant at Timbertop, the ninth-grade campus of Australia’s Geelong Grammar School. Situated in the Victorian Highlands, Timbertop is the famous Outward-Bound based school that “toughened” Great Britain’s Prince Charles.

Timbertop students, and all Timbertop staff, for that matter, seem to do two main things: run and hike. And when I say run, I mean we all run a marathon and when I say hike, I mean we all hike nearly every week for at least three days, covering around twenty miles per day. I don’t care how much mental fitness one may have acquired through Deerfield’s trials; it is still going to require a good bit of training to get yourself around a 26-mile course.

Now, not having been any sort of cross-country star during my years in the Pocumtuck Valley, I find this whole intensive-physical-fitness/running-up-mountains thing was rather new to me. However, the concept of having a daunting task put in front of me (in this case, the marathon), that I neither wanted to do nor thought I could do, was no stranger. And every day, half a planet away, though I am doing hill-training for two hours instead of pounding out a paper on Plato, I use the same basic skill-set that Deerfield drilled into me—hard work even when it hurts, persistence, and an open mind.

Mental stamina, whether it gets you up the highest mountain in the country with a 50lb. pack on your back or through that infamous Dante project, is an invaluable ideal of Deerfield. True, Timbertop is pounding a whole new level of physical endurance into me, but as any athlete will tell you, running and hiking are psychological sports, and I seriously doubt that I would have adequate mental strength for this semi-boot camp, if it weren’t for Deerfield.

Anne Jamison ’09 was the front page editor of the Deerfield Scroll. She is currently on a gap year in Australia.

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