Ingrid Coats writes home from the Outdoor Academy

Coates has picked up the banjo since attending the OA. “I’m excited to impress all my friends when I come home,” she said.

Illustration by Kira Hynes

Coates has picked up the banjo since attending the OA. “I’m excited to impress all my friends when I come home,” she said.

From her small cabin, she writes. She scrawls out her experiences in dark pen on a leaf of college ruled paper. She’s lived at 42 Hart Road, Pisgah Forest, since mid-January. Strenuous and novel as it is, Ingrid Coats found her way into an entirely new world. “It’s weird and super exhausting, but it is fun, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.” (See December 2011 Carpe Diem, p. 22, for the original story.)

It turns out that the experience is harder than she anticipated, “We hike to the top of this little mountain almost every morning,” she said. “[All of us students] are always together.” Beyond that, students attend an extensive study hall Sunday through Thursday that lasts two hours. “It’s nice because we get all our work done, but it’s never-ending,” she said.

Coates has been out of verbal contact with her friends for as long as she’s been gone. “We have to share one phone between all of us,” she said. Considering her and her friends’ busy lifestyles, letters from them are an infrequent gem for Coates. “I love it when people write me,” she said. “It’s the one peek I get into what’s going on in the social world back home.”

Throughout all this change, Coates has learned a handful of new skills in what little free time she has. “I got to start playing the banjo, claw hammer style,” she said. “It’s painful for your fingers and arms, but it is super fun.”

Coates does miss home, and some things about Decatur, but it’s a sacrifice she says she’s okay with. “There is no drama program, which I really miss, but hey, I have the banjo to keep me company,” she said.

Despite some quirky rules, like the abolition of select words, like “sucks,” from the vocabularies of Coates and her peers, the Outdoor Academy has proven to be an ideal place to go to school. “I can’t say that everything about it’s great, I mean it’s still school” Coates said. “But I can say that it’s won my heart in several ways, and that’s more than I can say about other such situations I’ve come by.”

GDE Error: Error retrieving file - if necessary turn off error checking (404:Not Found)