Boots deep in the mud of the Cambridge Canal, we pushed the boat off just as the sun began to rise. It was another 7 a.m. on a weekend and the King’s College London Boat Club was just beginning their first race at a regatta in Cambridge.
I climbed into my seat, the coxswain seat, at the back of the eight-person boat. As a coxswain, I steered the boat and instructed the crew as they paddled up the canal towards the starting line. Once all of the boats in the race had lined up, the racing officials waved the flag and we shoot forward down the snaking canal. During this fifteen minute race, you could feel the sense of community in the boat. Each rower supported the other, adjusting to the twists and turns of the canal. Charging ahead, we passed one boat and then another, until we were 500 meters from the finish and evenly tied with two other boats that barely fit the width of the narrow canal. Crossing the finish line, we overtook one boat and tied with the other. Getting off the water, you could feel the excitement flowing through the team as we collapsed in exhaustion. This is what we had woken up at 4 a.m. on Tuesday mornings for, the thrill of the race. As we gathered together for a team picture, I started to feel like a part of the team and not just a temporary member leaving after the semester.
The day after racing, the team gathered together early in the morning to go punting. We bought grapes, wine, and cheese for the occasion and set out in groups of four. Laughing, we collided into each other’s boats trying to knock the person punting into the water. After several people had fallen into the murky water, we returned the boats and ventured over to a pun for some Bailey’s hot chocolate. The men’s and women’s team filled the pub until there was no walking space. Shaking from the cold, we sipped hot chocolate and talked for a few hours. I started to feel like part of a mismatched family. Two weeks later, as I boarded the plane back to Boston, I started to miss Juliette, the women’s captain’s, hugs and Sophie giving me freshly made banana bread when I was stressed. King’s College London Boat Club had started to feel like home.