On the Island

Pel Hiring Info Session

What is it like to live and work on Star Island? On Jan. 12, 2023, a group of former Pelicans — Star Island’s summer seasonal staff — gathered to answer questions from people interested to learn more. The conversation covered such topics as what to pack for a summer on Star, what a typical day might look like, how to spend a day off, and highlights of living and working in community.

Applications to work on Star Island this summer are still being accepted.


Conference Updates

Registration for Star Island’s 2023 Summer Season Now Open

Your visit to Star Island this summer is a little closer now that registration is open. From those first greetings at the dock, to workshop discussions blending into lunch on the front porch, your favorite Star Island moments are approaching.  

We invite you to register now!

Our season opens in June with opportunities for people looking to deepen their knowledge about topics like natural history, the arts, science, and religion. You’ll find time to learn coupled with time to connect. All the while you’ll discover, maybe for the first time or the fiftieth time, that the island’s simplicity provides the space you need to recharge. 

As we move further into summer our multi-generational conferences blossom on the island with playful energy. Theme talks about global issues engage the minds of those gathered in rooms like Elliott Hall, while youth groups interact with island staff to learn about history, the environment, and sustainability. The island community comes together for activities like softball games on the front lawn, meals in the dining hall, and chapel services. 

When September arrives with its earlier setting sun, Star Island plays host to a large number of conferences with varied topics. You can find yourself learning a new yoga position, uncovering a new historical fact about New England, or delighting in the pleasures of a musical performance. 

No matter your connection to the island, we invite you to spend time here at one or more of the conferences that call Star Island home. Find out which conference or program you might attend by visiting our program list. 

Between now and your island visit, we will be busy getting Star ready for the summer season.  

We look forward to being together on Star Island in 2023. 

The Pels

Pel Hiring Info Session on January 12

Are you thinking about applying to be a Pelican, one of the summer workers on Star Island? Join us for a zoom info session on Thursday, January 12th at 7:30 pm to meet with former Pels. Find out first hand what it’s like to be a Pel and why it can be so meaningful and fulfilling. Ask questions and get answers! Spread the word and we’ll see you on the 12th.

Update January 13, 2023: Thank you to everyone who attended! 

The Pels

The Friendships Pelicans Gain

by a Pelican who worked on Star from 2018 – 2022

When I say that I love Star Island, I wouldn’t be lying one bit. I talk about it all the time and anyone who knows me can agree.

It’s such a beautiful place and to work and live on an island over the summer?! It’s hard to find words for such an experience.

Being a Pelican (Pel) has been such an amazing part of my life for the 4 summers that I’ve had the opportunity to work on Star. I’d like to specifically talk about the friendships you can make.

Pels come from all over the country to work here and I’ve gained friendships with people that I never would’ve met if it hadn’t been for Star. I love them. I call them my Pel Pals!

The comfort that I feel from being part of the Pel community warms my heart. Pels looks out for each other and care about each others well being. We are respectful and supportive of everyone no matter who you are. I feel safe to be who I am with no worries about being “too much” or “too quirky.” Pelicans are quirky. Pelicans are pelicans. We are who we are.

The island to me is like a second home.

Being away from home for a few months can get a little homesick, but as you live and work with amazing people and create bonds with the community and the island, Star too could start to feel like a second place to call home.

Apply to Be a Pelican!

Applications are now open to work on Star Island for the 2023 summer.

Start Your Pelican Application

The Pels

A Sense of Belonging: A Pelican Experience

by Josselyn Donahue

I’ve been going to Star my whole life and always wished I had more than just a week. The decision to become a Pel was not a hard one for me, and when I stepped off the boat for my first Pel summer, I got a glimpse of just how lovely the Pel community is. In my three summers on Star, I held positions including waitrae, music director, rounder, and First Aid Station assistant. From guest interactions during the day, cheering friends on in the softball game, watching the sunset, and making nachos late at night in Pel Hall, I have always felt like I’ve belonged.

This community that is so near and dear to our hearts is not something you find just anywhere. It’s hard to describe just how wonderful it is to be in it, you just have to experience it for yourself. I’m always my best self when I’m on Star, and the friends and memories I’ve made there will last a lifetime. I’m forever grateful for being a Pel.

Apply to Be a Pelican!

Applications are now open to work on Star Island for the 2023 summer.

Start Your Pelican Application

The Pels

Frosting Cupcakes and Rolling Buns

by Ann Shanks Etter

Working as a Pel gave me an opportunity to use skills I don’t normally get to exercise in my career. I was fortunate to be able to take some time off from being a CPA to go work at Star.

I learned new skills, how to roll buns and frost cupcakes, among them. I had the opportunity to be supervised after decades of supervising others. It gave me valuable insight into working with a younger generation and will inform some of my business decisions going forward. And all in a gorgeous setting.

I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of a team, learning new skills, exercising skills I hadn’t used in ages, and easily meeting my step goals every day. I highly recommend Pel-ing, both for sheer fun and for personal growth and helpful knowledge. It helps Star, too!

Apply to Be a Pelican!

Applications are now open to work on Star Island for the 2023 summer.

Start Your Pelican Application

The Pels

Why You Should Become a Pelican

by Jamie Polson

I’ve been going to Star Island my whole life for the International Affairs conference. Star Island is my favorite place in the world. When I was a kid I always looked up to the staff members (Pelicans). They seemed so cool and so nice! Whenever someone would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would tell them “A PELICAN!” (This was often met with confusion when I was interacting with someone not familiar with Star Island). I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to be a Pelican and I hope that you have that same opportunity.

If there is one word that I would use to describe the Pelican experience, it would be “family.” Over the past three summers, I have made some of the best friends that I’ve ever had. I can tell that these are friendships that will last a lifetime. At Star, since you are living with the people that you work with, you get to know them really well. Everybody on the island is so supportive of each other, and wants to see each other thrive. Star Island is a great way to find yourself or reinvent yourself. For instance if you’re thinking of changing something about your appearance or want to go by a new name, it is a very supportive community to try it out on.

I know that living on an island so far away from family and friends can seem daunting and there are times when you miss home, I certainly did in my first year. My recommendation for getting past this, is to try and make many friends as early as possible. Once you find someone that you really click with, that friendship helps to distract you from missing home, and maybe you’ll even find a home in Star Island, like I did.

Another important thing to keep in mind, that Star Island tries to emphasize, is the importance of work-life balance. When you live where you work, it can feel like you are always at work. So make sure to take time out of your day when you are done with work to do something that you really enjoy. Set boundaries with people and let them know if you don’t want to talk about work. There’s a rule at Star that you always have to ask first before asking someone a work related question. Another Pelican tradition is that they celebrate all the major holidays during the summer. For example Christmas is on July 25th, Halloween is on July 1st. The parties are a blast and a great chance to relax after a long work day, and just have fun with your friends, and sometimes dress up in goofy outfits. Every week there is a talent show put on by the Pelicans in order to entertain the guests. It is a great way to show off any performing talents that you may have! Sing a song, do a dance, read a poem, perform a monologue, do stand up comedy, play an instrument! Meals are made by the lovely Kitchen Crew and all Pelicans eat at the same time in “Pel Hall” (which is in the basement of the main hotel). There are also snack options if you get hungry throughout the day, where you can get: Pizza, soda, delicious Lime Rickeys, candy, ice cream, and much more. The wonderful Snackies will give you your food! While the work may be difficult sometimes there is always a way to make it more fun! For example on Banquet Night (which happens once a week at the end of a conference) the Waitrae/dishtrae (the nickname for waitstaff) have “shucking” parties where they all shuck corn together and make it a bonding experience and a fun opportunity to hang out with your work friends. Twice a week the Pelicans have to load all the luggage from a conference onto and off of the island, and all line up from the boat to the truck and pass the luggage to each other. It makes the work go a lot faster and can also be fun. Being a Pelican is a great way to build up your resume. While you may be hired for one job, there are a lot of skills and responsibilities that you take on, which look impressive.

I think that Star Island might have had the biggest impact on who I am as a person. It truly is my spirit’s home. It is where I feel most like myself. Every year when I leave the island I count the days until I am back home, 7 miles out from Portsmouth, NH. But whenever I leave the Island, I try to spread the feeling that Star Island gives me. I will come back! And hopefully, you will too!

Apply to Be a Pelican!

Applications are now open to work on Star Island for the 2023 summer.

Start Your Pelican Application

Star Island Corporation

Summer 2023 Hiring Now Open

Applications for Star Island’s summer 2023 seasonal positions — Pelicans — are now being accepted. The process is fairly simple, but differs slightly if this will be your first time as a Pelican or if you are returning. Here are some helpful links and information for 2023 applicants:

First Time Applicants

First time applicants are encouraged to learn more about the application process as they begin, and consider the different positions available.

When first time applicants are ready, fill out an online application. The priority deadline for applications is January 23, 2023.

Along with an application, first time applicants are also required to submit two reference forms. These could be form an employer/supervisor, professor, advisor, or school guidance counselor, principle, teacher, minister, or religious education director, etc. Please note that references from family members will not be considered. Applications will not be considered complete until both references are received. For priority deadline applicants, references must be received by January 31, 2023.

Returning Applicants

If you’ve previously worked as a Pelican, you are considered a returning applicant. Returning Pels are also encouraged to learn more about the application process as a reminder. While you might have an idea of what crew you’d like to work on, you’re still encouraged to consider the different positions available.

When returning applicants are ready, fill out an online application. The priority deadline for applications is January 23, 2023.

If you are interested in a supervisory-level position, a letter of interest is required. Email that letter to office@starisland.org by January 23, 2023.


If you have questions about your application or the process, please reach out to office@starisland.org.


How to Enjoy Starry Night 2022

So you’ve heard that Star Island is holding an event called Starry Night on Saturday, November 19 at the Discover Portsmouth Center, but maybe you’re wondering, what exactly is Starry Night? Certainly you can look up at the sky during the evening and see your own starry night; why would you attend Star’s Starry Night? Here’s a brief description and suggested itinerary for how to spend your Starry Night with us.

Starry Night is, very simply, a fundraiser for Star Island. Through ticket sales and a silent auction, Star Island raises money to support our Annual Fund. Silent Auction? Yes, we have a number of outstanding offerings for Starry Night. Items include amazing pieces of art, gift certificates to local businesses and handcrafted goods.

Register for Starry Night

Suggested Itinerary

First thing: come to Portsmouth! Portsmouth will be buzzing this weekend, so thanks for choosing Starry Night. Now that you’re in Portsmouth:

Saturday, November 19

  • 9:00 AM – Enjoy breakfast at any number of great spots.
  • 10:30 AM – Take a drive along US RT 1-A through the town of Rye, NH and take a glimpse of the Isles of Shoals. Our winter caretaker is on-island tending to matters, so know that everything is safe. Stop at one of the turn-offs and take a picture. If you strike a pose just right, it could even look like you’re holding Star Island.
  • 11:30 AM – The Seacoast Science Center is open for visitors. Stop by and play in the touch tank to learn more about the Gulf of Maine — just as if you were visiting our Rutledge Marine Lab during the summer.
  • 1:00 PM – There are so many places to eat in Portsmouth you may want to explore a few. Then you’ll know a great place or two to return to before or after your summer 2023 Star Island visit.
  • 2:30 PM – Stroll the streets of Portsmouth. From independent booksellers to art galleries, Portsmouth has a number of interesting and unique places to pique your interest. You might even head over to the Portsmouth Public Library to see a portrait of Celia Thaxter. And if you’re in need of something sweet, we suggest a stroll down the far end of State Street to visit a hidden gem of a chocolate shop.
  • 5:00 PM – Stroll into Starry Night and delight in the warmth of good conversation, tasty treats, and live music. Peruse the auction and bid on a favorite item. You’ll be entertained by the music of local musician Seth Gooby.
  • 5:30 PM – Enjoy a fascinating talk by Isaac Fitzgerald about his time on Star Island, writing, and his latest memoir Dirtbag, Massachusetts.
  • 6:15 PM – Continue to mingle, eat, drink and bid. Listen for the announcements about the silent auction ending.
  • 7:30 PM – Starry Night concludes until next year and you’re free to gallivant around Portsmouth. Go grab some dinner!

Thank you for spending the day with us!


Register for Starry Night



Thanks to our event sponsors!


On the Island

Coming Home to Star by Sarah Phipps Gordon

If Einstein had ever visited Star Island, the theory of general relativity may not exist.  


Hear me out. 


I am about to sacrilegiously over-simplify this: according to relativity, time passes more slowly closer to the center of the earth than it does at higher altitudes. Therefore, given the ridiculous rate at which time passes during an average week on Star Island passes, we, as Shoalers, defy the theory of general relativity.  


Well above sea-level, two years have passed with neither stepping foot on the sun-baked pier, nor hearing the music of the creaky porch slats. That elevated time away indisputibly falls into the category of, “time goes on crutches” (Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing).   


When I arrived for Arts in June, after that brutal respite, I expected a “kiss the ground” moment at the pier – or at least some ugly crying. Instead, I breathed. That’s all. You know that feeling, of coming home to Star: grounding, fully feeling the air inside and outside of you align, seeing the sky join the ocean, and, despite all life’s chaos (raging understatement), believing that everything makes sense again. Ultimate muscle memory.


Our time away was a period of such grief, stress, loss, and loneliness for us. How slowly has that time passed for you? Asking for myself. 


We can finally come back to poke our souls awake.  


2021 Island living proved magical as ever, from the first meeting: listening to “Fire and Water” from Adirondack chairs on the front lawn. The historical and logistical significance of a water lecture being shared from the front of the Well House was certainly not lost on this audience.  

It also set the tone for a week of creativity and improvisation regarding how we at Arts hurrahed through our conference. Traditions organically transformed. Zumba on the tennis court? Sure! Chapel in Brookfield, streaming in from New Jersey? Beautiful and transcendent (literally). Oatmeal or compost cookies – I’m wondering now about leftover compost cookies being used as the next day’s oatmeal (Mystery Oatmeal? Maybe not) – tasted better when eaten at a picnic table. Old and new Shoaler friends popped in and out of informal seating as they tried to catch the best harbor view during a meal and have as many conversations and catch-ups as one can squeeze into an hour. 


Speaking of which, did you know that the sun can keep the cheese in your grilled cheese sandwich quite evenly and perfectly melted?    


The front porch housed an audience for more than the setting sun.  


Back to more physics. I will never believe that time does not fly by at an unimaginable pace while at sea level, sharing lime rickeys. Watching a lantern candle flicker. Listening to sea gulls caw, and dodging their protective attacks. Climbing rocks. Falling into a trance at the low toll of the chapel bell. Getting feasted upon by mosquitoes. Breathing.  


Our time among the waves passes with such haste, that I’ll be attending a September conference, too. I also want to be as prepared as I can be to argue with Einstein himself.