Student Shares “Guide to Surviving Burke” in Term End

BMA Student Tatum Coutu ’18 (Foster, RI)


The practice of reflection and self-assessment is a long-standing and important tradition at BMA. A Term End is a personal reflection that students and staff share with the community. The primary goal of the Term End is for students and staff to reflect on the previous few months and then share that reflection for the betterment of our community.

Warren Witherell, our founder, always said that Burke was like a piece of clay that needed to be reshaped each and every year. The Term End is part of that process of reshaping through reflection and self-assessment. Student Term Ends have also sparked some amazing discussions over the last few years and in keeping with our belief that students should be a partner in the Burke Process.

With the end of the first, fall semester in early January, each student has completed a Term End. In years past, hard copies were placed in a wicker basket in the Frazier living room. Today, students submit them digitally and they are shared via Google Drive.

Burkie Tatum Coutu generously offered to share her Term End with the broader community.


Tatum Coutu ’18 (Foster, RI)
Term End Winter 2018

With my senior year already half over, I can’t believe I only have a few months left before I graduate. In one way, I feel completely ready to move on and start a new chapter of my life, but on the other hand, I really can’t imagine my life without Burke in it. Over the past four years, I have spent more time at 60 Alpine Lane than I have anywhere else. It’s pretty bittersweet thinking about saying goodbye. I almost feel selfish for wanting to live my life in the Burke bubble forever. Everything is taken care of for us. Our only jobs are to ski fast, work hard, and be a good person. I’ve never really had a shortage of words when it comes to term ends. They are usually one of my favorite things to write and to read. Writing this one was different. I wasn’t at a loss for words or thoughts; I just struggled to find something I wanted to share with the whole community. But after thinking for a while, I decided wanted to leave something that other people could look back, and hopefully, it would help them, inspire them and honestly just make somebody’s Burke experience that much better. So here is my ‘guide to surviving burke.’

  1. Never Say “No”

Don’t take this one to literally, I’m not saying to say yes to everything people say, but maybe try some things you wouldn’t normally do. Step outside of your comfort zone. When someone asks if you want to go on a bike ride or a hike or Sam decides to go on the radar ride, or run around the mountain is happening, say yes. Those adventures are the ones you remember. Not the Netflix episode you watched or the Instagram posts you scrolled through to pass the time. You will remember the crazy outdoor adventures that you thought you were never going to survive but somehow made it through.

  1. Ask questions

Honestly, I think this is one of the most important lessons any of us can learn. Every person at this school knows something you don’t, and you owe it to yourself to learn from them. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. There will always be someone who went through this before you. I wish this is something I took more literally. So to the younger students, I ask you to learn from both mine and everyone else’s mistakes. Use them to help guide you along your journey.

  1. Good Isn’t Good Enough

At Burke, we strive for greatness. We believe in pushing boundaries and not stopping until we find our limits. Don’t stop when you think you’ve done enough, stop when you can’t do anymore. Every one of you is talented; you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t. Have confidence in yourself and take full advantage of your time here, because trust me it flies by. You are part of a really special place and when you graduate you owe it to yourself to feel as though you pushed both this school and yourself to the limit.

  1. Honesty is the Best Policy

I know this one seems a little obvious. It may have taken almost a full four years for me to truly understand the honor code. (better late than never, am I right?) But honestly, I think living and being a part of it is the only way people can learn what it really means. We can talk about it all we want, but it is really up to all of you whether you want to embrace it or not.

  1. Your Class is Your family

Your graduating class is one of the best things you have at this school. You will share the most memories with that select group of people. Now I’m not saying only hang out with them, and forget about everyone else. But maybe do a few extra things together because, at the end of the day, you sit on the graduation stage next to them. They are your ultimate friends.

  1. Communicating Is Key

I think one of the things Burke as a whole can improve on is communication. My go to is ‘it’s always better to over communicate than under communicate.’ Always email your teachers, talk to your coaches, and never forget to call your parents!

  1. Have fun

Burke has to be fun. There is no way around it. If you are not having fun, then this is not the place for you. There has to be a joy you find in waking up early and going to a workout in the pouring rain or crawling through the mud at 6 in the morning. This is obviously a “learned fun” no one shows up their first day at school loving these things. But the faster you learn it, the more enjoyable everything becomes.

  1. Make Time for You

At Burke, our schedules are planned out almost to the second. We have something to do or somewhere to be literally all the time. I often got caught up in that. Just recently did I start finding time in my schedule to just sit and do nothing. Being able to find this free time can make your life a lot less stressful.

  1. Learn the History

This year, I had the opportunity to read Warren’s book about what makes Burke ‘work.’ It gave me a lot of insight into why we do certain things a specific way. I find it really interesting to learn how we got here and what people went through to do it. If you guys get a chance, try to learn about the history, ask staff members who have been here, read books and articles on Burke, just earn as much as you can. When you do, it makes the things that seem to make no sense, make sense.

  1. Make Your Own Fun.

This is different from just having fun. At Burke, you are left with the freedom to do just about anything. It’s hard to find some free time here, but when you do I challenge you to find a friend and do something outside: play volleyball, basketball, make up a game, build a snowman, make a jump, go Nordic skiing, dance to blaring music, bake some cookies, paint something. The opportunities are endless. I really don’t like it when people complain that there is nothing to do, we pretty much live in the ultimate playground so get creative.

  1. Do Things Just Because

This one is a shoutout to all the people who have cleaned Frazier because it got a little messy. Washed dishes between meals, changed the paper towels when they run out. Gave the tunning room a little extra love when it needed it. Gave someone a compliment when they succeed or a hug when they didn’t. And anything else that you did to better the community just because you felt like it. We need more of that.

  1. Say Thank You

Whether it’s clearing your plate, leaving the classroom, watching video, getting on the t-bar or anything in between, ALWAYS say thank you. It is one of the most important lessons all of us can learn, and it holds great power. People are so much more willing help and do things for you if they know how appreciative you are.

This wasn’t really the most conventional term end. And it wasn’t as self-reflecting as everyone may have liked or wanted, but I feel like I do my fair share of reflecting on my own time. I wanted to talk about some of the things I have learned or that have helped me over my years here and share them with you guys. I’m not saying everyone has to live by these rules or change their lives right away; it’s just to get you guys to think. I could go on forever, but there it is, my guide to surviving this crazy place.