Who We Were

Lit and the Land, Spring 2016

NOTE: Links to individual student Blogs! Check out their good work!


Nick Kastenholz

Hey, I’m Nick, a four-year senior at Phillips Exeter Academy. I was born in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in the first suburb north, Evanston. As long as I can remember, I’ve loved spending time in the outdoors. I joined scouting in first grade and have been a part of the same Troop ever since. I’ve made the rank of Eagle and have gone on a number of canoeing, backpacking and kayaking trips with my troop.

Every summer for the past five years, I’ve gone canoeing in the north woods of Canada through a camp called Widjiwagan. This past summer was for 35 days in northern Ontario and Manitoba with a group of six other guys. In just a few months I’ll be gone for 50 days up in Nunavut. In a similar vein, over spring break this year, I went on a backpacking trip in Utah through NOLS with a group from my school. I first went hunting when I was perhaps five years old (unsuccessfully, I might add, given that the shotgun nearly knocked me down the first time I shot it), and I’ve been shooting and hunting ever since.

Even outside of these specific things that I do and trips that I go on, I always enjoy the fresh air and just being outside, whether with friends or just sitting on a bench alone and watching, so I’m very excited to be spending time outdoors as a part of this English class.

Lucky Knox

Hi, I’m Lucy, I’m a four year senior in Wheelwright. I grew up in Cohasset and then Scituate, Massachusetts—both small towns on the ocean about an hour south of Boston. As I kid I loved to spend afternoons searching for sea glass and running from Horseshoe Crabs on the shoreline across the street from my house, or exploring with my sister and building forts in the woods out back. I’ve always loved spending time and working outside, which is one of the reasons I decided to apply to the Mountain School. During my semester there in the fall of 2014, I spent a lot of time learning in and about nature, specifically the landscape of central Vermont. In English we would investigate classic Robert Frost poems or the short stories of Annie Proulx, and author who lives just beyond hill—you can even see her field from the top of the woodpile behind the library. In Science class we would learn about the causes of New England’s fickle weather and the stories behind the rusty barbed wire sprouting from the trunks of sugar maples across the state. We spent every day either in the woods splitting fuel for the winter, rotating pasture for the cows and sheep, or in the harvest kitchen scrubbing potatoes for dinner—any work necessary to keep our place running. By the time I left the Mountain School, I felt a strong connection to that corner of Vermont. It is a feeling I can’t help but return to and a feeling I am always trying to translate to my life elsewhere. I am looking forward to Lit and the Land as a way to continue to articulate and develop my connection with the natural world.

Noa Siegel

Nice to meet you! I’m Noa and I’m a senior at Phillips Exeter Academy. I was born in Alabama but I’ve grown up here in Exeter, New Hampshire. I’ve been lucky because I’ve never had to make an effort to be connected to nature and the outdoors. Living in this small town, around the campus of PEA and in the northeastern region of the country, my friends, family and I find our fun outdoors. Every summer since age eight, I’ve attended a summer camp called Wyonegonic on the shores of Moose Pond in Bridgeton, Maine. This is where I got my “traditional” outdoor experiences: swimming, sailing, camping, hiking, canoeing. My summers at Wyo resonated with me for more reasons than one, but the outdoorsy aspect really latched on. I attribute my connection with nature to Wyo, and my practice with her elements, surprises and blessings to this town of Exeter. Here on my blog you will find everything you need to know about me, my mind, and my relationship with  Mother Nature.

Megan Smith

Hi! I’m Megan Smith, a four year senior from Exeter, NH, where I’ve lived for the past 12 years. Growing up in a house which borders acres of conservation land in a town which is ten minutes from the ocean in a state defined by its landscape, it would be impossible for nature to not have shaped me. When I feel overwhelmed, I take to the woods behind my house. When I feel alone, I walk down the shoreline of Jenness beach. When I feel anything, really, I look to the stars. I’ve always been able to find some kind of solace in each way I encounter nature.

I’m so grateful to live where I live and to have traveled where I’ve travelled. About a week of my summer is always dedicated to Cliff Island, Maine, and another month to Lake Winnipesaukee. I spent two weeks two summers ago hiking and photographing in Grindelwald and Zermatt, Switzerland as well as Chamonix, France. I’ve gone on countless walks through the trails in my backyard and countless boat rides across oceans and lakes alike.

This term, I think I hope most to find more of a personal connection to the land. I hope to be able to express my love and appreciation for nature both through my photography, music, and writing with more focus and more intent.

Grace Stinson

I’m Grace, a four-year senior from Exeter, NH. Growing up on a small farm in NH means I spent my childhood outdoors. Skiing in the winter, hiking in the summer, and working on our farm year-round has given me a special appreciation for the land that raised me. No matter what other ranges I hike or in what other waters I’ll swim, the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean will always be the most memorable. I decided to take Literature and the Land during my last term at Exeter in order to properly say goodbye to my home before moving to college far away.

Michaela Streep

Hey there! I’m Michaela, a four year senior, and I’ve lived in Exeter for majority of my life. I love being outside and exploring the town; I’m normally running or biking through it, especially during the summer. My mother lives on a lake in Kingston, so I also grew up fishing, kayaking, and running around in the woods surrounding the lake. I played soccer, basketball, track, lacrosse, softball, crew- most sports someone can think of. I was never one for being indoors and watching TV or playing computer games. There are very few things that will keep me inside.

Last spring, I went on a NOLS trip to Utah, where we backpacked through the canyonlands of Utah. We repelled into slot canyons and navigated our way through slot canyons and pools of water. We carried our tents, food and clothing in our packs and set up camp every night. It was a beautiful (and challenging) experience, and I can’t wait to do it again one day.

Last summer, my friend Henry got me into birding and we went early in the morning to places like Plum Island and Pawtuckaway State Park where he taught me the common birds in the area and where to find them.

I’m very excited to spend time out in the Exeter area this term, especially since I’m moving into Boston this summer and won’t be able to be in Exeter as much anymore. I’m looking forward going back to places I’ve grown up going to and exploring new places that I haven’t been before. 


Anna Barnes

Hi I’m Anna, a four year senior from Vershire, VT. I’ve grown up surrounded by forests and farmland, picking blueberries and splashing in the pond during the summer, then sledding and warming up afterwards by the fire during the winter. I live with my family on a small hobby farm with a few horses, an assortment of chickens, two dogs and one friendly rescued sheep. I enjoy spending time outside running, backcountry skiing and rock-climbing. I spent last spring at The Mountain School where I enjoyed taking classes outside (some similar to Lit and the Land) and working in the kitchens and gardens with my friends. I’m not sure what I want to study next year but I think it will be related to environmental issues.

Sean Geary

My name is Sean Geary I was born in Exeter NH. But spent much of my childhood on a small farm in Chester NH. about half an hour west. I love spending time outdoors. When I’m spending time in nature I like to hunt, fish, and hike. I like to get outside whenever I have the opportunity. I’m really excited to be taking this course because it fits perfectly with what I like to do and the reading will connect with things that I enjoy reading out of class in my free time as well. So far I have really enjoyed our walks and adventures and look forward to sharing our experiences throughout this spring on my blog. 

Quinn Hickey

Hi! I’m Quinn Hickey, a four year senior at Phillips Exeter Academy. I live in Langdell Hall with my dad, mom, brother, and dog, Dolly Bubbles. I like to act, write poetry, learn, and have fun with friends. I took this class because I LOVE NATURE. Whether it be going to the Utah Canyonlands with Mr. Bre or taking a walk through the woods on a Saturday morning, being outside is one of my favorite things. It’s relaxing, meditative, and beautiful. This spring, you can find me on the quad, in the theater, or sleeping in my room. Hope you have a good life, reader.

Rebecca Ju

Hi! I’m Rebecca, a four year senior at Exeter. I originally come from Medfield, a small town in eastern Massachusetts. Since it’s just far enough from Boston to be boring (my friends from home often call it “Deadfield”), I spent a lot of my childhood exploring the pine forests that surrounded my neighborhood, or taking day trips to the kayak down the Charles River. I am also often outside in Exeter as well, out on the running trails or strolling down Swasey Parkway, so over the years I’ve really come to love the New England landscape. At Exeter, I’ve found that I really love to study the natural world – I’ve taken an excessive amount of biology classes here, including Ecology and Ornithology. In these classes, though, I’ve only been taught how to observe and analyze the nature surrounding me, and I’ve never really had the chance to learn creatively from the land around me. I’m excited to be able to write, sketch, read, hear, and discuss pieces inspired by nature, as well as to explore the land itself. Hopefully, this class will give me a new direction in which I can approach the natural world, and leave me with a more thorough appreciation of the land on which we live.

Lauren Karr

My name is Lauren Karr and I’m from West Virginia. When I’m not angry at myself for neglecting to wear a jacket in New Hampshire, I am walking around barefoot in the woodsy suburbs of Charleston with my parents, little sister and my hounddog. As far as academics go, I find comfort in Organic Chemistry and hope to study that in college. I can usually be found reading in my ginormous bean bag chair or working on my non-profit. In Lit n’ the Land, I hope to glean appreciation for New Hampshire wildlife!

Emmaline Kim

Hi, everyone. My name is Emmaline Kim, and I am a senior at Phillips Exeter Academy. I currently live in Exeter, New Hampshire, but I grew up in a combination of the granite and sinking mountains of New Hampshire and the young volcanic islands of Indonesia. My father is Korean, so the stunning cliffs off the southern coast have also left a strong impression on me. The landscapes that I have come to know are far ranging in distance and in features. I love both cold New England mountains in the dead of winter, and the coral reefs and desert islands of Komodo National Park in the dry season.

 I love to scuba dive. All of my diving has been in Indonesia, so I have only seen a glimpse of the coral reefs that our planet has to offer. That being said, I have seen the effects of negative human interaction with the ocean. I’ve seen plastic caught on coral, and even a sea turtle with a fin missing. The other side of human interaction with the land that interests me most is hidden deeper underground. Geology is my passion, so my interest and relationship to the land often lies buried underneath vegetation. I am fascinated by how we pull fuels and minerals from the earth and turn them into something new and useful. While the process is intriguing, we are leaving scars on our earth that we cannot heal. Aside from the damage being caused by humans, geology offers insight on the story of our world. It is from rocks that we have learned how our world has been shaped to the planet it is today.

Hiro Kuwana

Hey! I’m Hiro Kuwana from Connecticut. Right now I’m studying at Phillips Exeter Academy, and taking a class called Lit and the Land. I’m fascinated to learn more about the surrounding biomes in this area, since my house rarely has anything besides deer and the occasional wild turkey. I enjoy taking runs in the woods and getting lost once in a while, so you might see me climbing a tree, jogging along the path or taking a siesta on the quad. I like to walk around when it rains and listen to the distant thunderstorm or watch a river form from a recent downpour. Earlier this year, I spent two months living in Taiwan where the ecosystem and types of trees were different. It made me think about how we all have nature as an integral part of our lives, yet we are rarely aware of this fact. My hope is to share with you some perspective of the New England forests and some meditations on what this is like!

Brian Moriarty 

Hi!  I’m Brian and I’m a four year senior in Cilley Hall.  I live in Hinsdale, Illinois during the school year and in Northeast Harbor, Maine over the summer.  My interest in nature stems from exposure to Acadia National Park and the Maine wilderness throughout my childhood.  Between the ages of 7 and 15 I attended a 7 week camp, Camp TImanous, on Panther Pond in Raymond, Maine.  While at Timanous there were no cell phones or computers allowed and I participated in daily activities such as hiking, canoeing, and riflery.

Tori Regan

Hi! I’m Tori, a two-year senior at Phillips Exeter Academy, and I live in Hoyt Hall. My passion for nature stemmed from my childhood, when I was constantly exposed to my parents’ deep love of nature. Growing up in Michigan, my family and I took at least one camping trip per year, often to the U.P. and almost never in an actual campground (we stuck to the state park + tent + no-plumbing type of adventure). The memories I formed on these trips are some of the ones I look back on most fondly—like the time we camped at Black River, hiking four miles with all of our food, water, sleeping-, and kitchen-gear strapped to our backs and dollies in order to reach our campsite, only to discover the woods were mosquito-infested and the campsite was covered with poison ivy. On our last day, after hiking all the way back to the car, we discovered the beautiful, untouched, pine tree-lined beach. The water was icy, but the sand was perfect, and it helped make the bug-ridden treks worth it.

Through this blog, I intend to deepen my connection with nature that I feel I’ve partially lost as I’ve grown up. I look forward to taking the time to notice the little things so many people miss in their rush to live their lives in this busy, modern world.

Cam Rider 

Hey! I’m Cam, a four year senior from Los Angeles, California. While the small amount of desert greenery around my home in the suburbs has to be micromanaged to ensure we don’t get brushfires, I’ve been able to have some great experiences in nature around the world – most of which are a lot more wild. In places like Big Sur, where you can feel the ocean in the air as the waves crash into the cliffs far below, Napa Valley, where the countryside is covered in dense foliage that twists around miles of golden vineyards, and the Salmon River, where sand piles up on the shores to form freshwater beaches, I feel like I’ve grown an appreciation for the grandeur of nature and all of the little pieces that make it so overwhelming. Now, whether I’m just on a run through the Exeter woods with the cross country team or enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime experience like floating on a river as a wildfire burns on the horizon, my time with nature is something I’ll always treasure.

David Shepley 

I am a four year senior living in Wentworth Hall. I am from Southbury, CT and was born in Lakewood, WA. I have grown up in the deciduous forest of southern New England for most of my life. Much of my childhood years were spent catching frogs and salamanders in ponds and forest brooks or climbing the rocky outcrops of New England hills. I have had a passion for the outdoors all of my life. Throughout my years, I have spent a lot of time attending programs and working with the Audubon at their local wildlife center where my favorite spots included the vernal pools, grassland meadows, and the beaver river. I have been to Tanzania three times and Namibia once where I was involved in big cat conservation and cheetah and rhino conservation in the latter. The conservation organizations I interacted with all put community empowerment at their core. I found that this was very successful. I learned of the fatal mistake in conservation– invading a foreign community and attempting to save wildlife without any consideration to the local history and needs of the people. In this way effective conservation makes empowering communities equally important to the main priority of saving wildlife. Empowerment leads to education, compromise, and desire to conserve one’s land. This is crucial because it is the local communities that are the main stewards of their own land. I have developed a heart for both the people living in these rural communities and this method of conservation. In 2014 I spent the summer interning with the Tanzania People & Wildlife Fund in the Maasai Steppe in northeastern Tanzania. Much of my work involved interacting with the Maasai where I learned (through immersion) about the Maasai culture and their struggles to reconcile their ancient culture with diminishing ecosystems as well as gender and health rights. The culmination of my experiences  has led me to consider internal relations as well as sustainable development in college.

Rex Tercek

Hello Everyone!

My name is Rex Tercek, and I am a four-year senior living in Webster Hall. Irvington, New York was home for the first 12 years of my life, but after elementary school I moved to Washington, DC. Ever since I can remember, nature has been an integral part of my life. In my early years, I spent my time rolling around in the snow, skiing in Vermont, or playing hide-and-seek along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail (which my house bordered). More recently, I have come to appreciate camping, climbing, and traveling as my method of connecting to the environment; I live for the uncertainty, the beauty, and the incredible experiences one can find outside, and so I can’t wait to blog about this upcoming term! 





Lit and the Land, Spring 2015


Liana Borges-Sotero

Hello! I’m Liana, a four year senior living in Wheelwright Hall, and I’m from New York City. I cycle competitively, and I practically eat sleep and breathe bikes once March comes around. I’m not very big on reading, but I do still appreciate a good book from time to time. I decided to take this course because last year I went on the NOLS trip with Mr. Bre and a few other classmates. I loved my time in the backcountry, but realized I wasn’t very good at expressing my feelings towards nature. Lit and the Land seemed like the perfect way to learn about nature and bring back fond memories of the NOLS trip. In addition to this class, I love chemistry with a passion and math is a close second. Random fun fact: my ears are two different shapes.
Brian Byun

Brian Byun is a four year-senior from Seoul, Korea. His sophomore year he went abroad to the Island School in the Bahamas, and spent three amazing months exploring and understanding the island of Eleuthera. He hopes to pursue a major in Urban Studies in college, and translate the sense of place that he feels in the natural environment to the urban one. He is excited for the rest of spring so that he can go to the farmers market and buy local food; he also would love to discreetly start a rooftop garden in his dorm.

Ailis Dooner

My name is Ailis, and I hail from Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, a little beach town on the northern edge of the Big Sur Coast, where my neighbors are Southern Sea Otters, condors, and snowy plovers. I have grown up exploring the Sierra Nevada mountains, the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts, and the sand dunes of California. My family has spent many a summer on the road in our legendary Safari van, stopping at as many National Parks as possible! When I was 13, I hiked the John Muir Trail (a month-long trek from Happy Isles, Yosemite to Mt. Whitney) with my family, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. When not outside, I’ve spent a lot of time at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where I’ve volunteered as a Teen Conservation Leader since 2011. I delight in the art of communicating natural phenomena in language, and I’ve been trained in natural history interpretation through the National Association for Interpretation. For the past three summers, I’ve done research in pharmacology, biochemistry, and microbiology labs, and I am excited to continue with biology research in college. I plan to major in either neuroscience or ecology/evolutionary biology.

Sage Mason

Hi! I’m Sage from New York City. I’m a four year senior at Exeter, and next year I’ll be attending Emory University. My fascination with nature initially stemmed from my lack of exposure. Growing up in New York, I was never really able to experience the great outdoors. If I wanted to see nature, I would stroll through the meticulously manicured paths of Central Park, or take a walk along the industrialized Hudson River. The idea of wilderness always made me happy, but my only outlets were manmade. I always had a desire to explore the natural world, but the opportunity was never present. When I arrived at Exeter, I finally had the outlet I always wanted. I found myself strolling through the woods, laying in open fields just to watch the stars, and leaving the dorm at 5am to see the sunrise at the beach.During spring break of my Upper year, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in a NOLS course through Exeter in the canyons of southern Utah. That trip even further emphasizedmy love of the land. I’m taking Literature and the Land this spring, just to continue studying something that I care so much about, and gain a more in depth understanding of the world around me. In college, I plan to study English, and I have no idea what will happen after that. I eat a lot.

Hannah Merrill

Hi!  My name is Hannah Merrill and I am a day student senior from Stratham, NH.  I live on my family’s dairy farm, Stuart Farm, along with my sister, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, 450 cows, 20 chickens, 12 ducks, two cats, and a dog.  I spend most of my free time on the farm because I love working alongside my family with the animals, equipment, and the land.  I guess you  could say that this is where my passion for nature comes from!  I really hope to continue the business after college, but in the meantime, music and school keep me busy.  (I play the harp, as well as the banjo in a three-piece bluegrass/folk band called “Three Quarter Moon.”)


Marcus Polk

I’m from St. Louis but it’s not very homey – I guess Exeter is more of a home to me. I run track and I’m into civil rights activism as well as photography. I busy myself with hip-hop, photography, and friends and I don’t like being alone for too long. I really like chamomile tea, good pears, and naps. Next year I hope to study afro-history, biology, journalism, and gender and women’s studies.

Victoria Prend

My name is Victoria Prend and I am a senior from Exeter, NH. I love traveling to new places and hiking. Nature is something that has always been a big presence in my life. My dad is on the board of E. O. Wilson biodiversity foundation and his passion has always been a big influence on my interest in nature and environmentalism. I’ve been lucky enough to have great hiking opportunities in my life such as Mount Kilimanjaro and the inca trail but I’ll always have a special spot for the white mountains that I grew up hiking in. Also my favorite tree is The Angel Oak tree. I really love Oak trees in general.

Rachel Sachs

I was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, but have had the great opportunity to live in Exeter, New Hampshire, and attend our school for four years. I love to write and I love to hike, run, and bike outdoors, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with a course titled “Literature and the Land.” I also love to travel and spent this past winter in Taiwan on a term abroad, studying Chinese language. This was my third trip to East Asia, and as of now I plan to concentrate in East Asian studies in college next year.

Hannah Sessler

New Hampshire > Hannah Sessler > Artist. 日本語を話せる。I love travelling and discovering fun facts about local animals, plants, and minerals/rocks. Mild outdoor enthusiast. Huge fan of interdisciplinary projects and topics. Taking a gap year to work and travel before continuing onto art school. I’m taking  Lit & the Land because I’m particularly bad at writing to describe land and nature and as a huge fan of landscape poets…that just won’t do.

Krissy Truesdale
My name is Krissy Truesdale. I am a four year senior and day student from the lovely beach town of Hampton, NH.  Next year I’m looking forward to attending Clark University and will be getting my bachelors in Global Environmental Studies and my MBA with a concentration in Sustainability. When I’m not enjoying classes or coordinating sustainability and environmental pursuits on campus here at Exeter, I’m typically working on the nonprofit organization I founded called Solar for Our Superheroes. The project is dedicated to providing local leaders, such as veterans, firefighters, police officers, and teachers, with solar panels for their homes, free of cost to them, and made possible through a partnership with the Boston Solar Company. Doing this, we can save our heroes money while also educating about and creating go examples for renewable energy in our communities. Currently, I am searching for our first Massachusetts “hero” to gift panels to, so if you have any ideas, feel free to check it out (www.facebook.com/solar4heroes). When it is time for a break from computers and business, I love going camping, kayaking, reading, and playing guitar.

Michael Tuchler

My name is Michael Tuchler and I’m from the suburbs of Chicago. Next year I’m going to the University of Wisconsin- Madison to study engineering, and right now I’m occupying my time with water polo and swimming. I’m taking Literature and the Land because I’ve spent the past eight summers at a camp in Bemidji, Minnesota, where I got to experience once-in-a-lifetime camping trips around the country, and I want to explore my own experiences further.