Earlier this year, a couple of high school kids from Kellenberg Memorial High School and I drove upstate to Esopus to the Bruderhof community, where we would shadow other students for the school day and then go visit their homes with their families.

Going into this experience, I knew that it would be different from what I was used to. I knew that they lived in a more rural society and that they shared everything, but I did not know at the time how much I would learn from just one day of a new perspective. The moment we arrived at Mount Academy, the community’s high school, I was amazed. The school looked like a giant castle. We were being greeted by a bunch of students at the door when I noticed that all the girls wore long patterned skirts with their hair in two braids and the boys all dressed nicely with short haircuts.

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The teachers of Mount Academy advised us to try not to use our cellphones because most kids in the school did not have one. We were sent to classes right away. I was nervous — not only was I going to classes in a completely different school but I was also assigned to a ninth-grader, so I had to go to high school classes for the first time, I felt out of place. The class sizes were small, with about 10 in each class, and all the students called the teachers by their first names. They spoke in a more proper way than I was used to hearing back at my school, and I became more attentive to how I spoke.

All the kids told me stories about their families and their hobbies, such as fishing, dancing and singing (things outside of technology). Toward the end of the school day, everyone was brought to the dining room where other members of the community were waiting to start the lunch feast. Platters of food like rice, gravy, squash and chicken were brought out, and I later learned they produced all the ingredients by themselves, right there in the community. Before we started eating, though, they sang a song from memory, perfectly in tune and harmonizing, while all I could do was sit and listen to how unified they were. After the day was over, I went home with my partner. I was taken aback when I learned that they lived in apartment-like buildings with open doors and one main kitchen with all their ingredients. Unlike most people in the suburbs, they weren’t afraid of thieves, and they didn’t need excessive privacy.

At the end of this trip, if there was anything I learned, it was that just because you might have a “normal” routine for things, it doesn’t mean the rest of the world doesn’t march to the beat of their own drum. You should just go out and learn about other peoples’ ways and appreciate the diversity of the world.

To find out more about them, visit bruderhof.com