The experiences I shared along with eighteen other incoming freshmen on my peer-led adventure trip are experiences I will hold and apply for the rest of my life.
The trip took away many pressures of coming to school in Morgantown through the course of the five days I was a part of the trip. I was very nervous coming into this. Being an introvert, I did not know how well I was going to make friends let alone talk to others. Being in this position where I did not know anyone, I was forced to break my shell and start being someone new, better and more extroverted. I felt way more prepared for college after going on my First-Year Trip, especially with all the campus resources our leaders knew and told us about. It really helped me understand more about this campus, where to go if I needed something or who to talk to.
What I enjoyed most about the trip was how effective the leaders were. I believe it is a very smart idea to have leaders who are also students at the school lead the trip because they were able to be teachers and friends. The leaders pushed us to do better. They motivated us to keep going and had infectious vibes that made us reciprocate them.
Our leaders were also some of our first friends here at WVU. They opened themselves up for us and in turn many turned to them. I think the most effective feature about the leaders on this trip was how easy they made it for the students to talk to each other and build friendships. Along with allowing us to keep building these relationships, they also grew their personal relationships with all of us.
My fears subsided once I knew I had friends here.
In doing all of this for us on the trip, they became very important to the trip and our group’s identity. They were there for advice and companionship. Our leaders encouraged us to embrace a sense of independence. They made it clear to us that we were responsible for the success of our experiences. It was the first time for a lot of people right not having an adult figure there telling you what to do, and you could see that some were looking for that guidance of being told what to do, rather than having to decide for themselves. In the situations we were in, it really empowered members of our group to step up and challenge themselves to be more independent and responsible for their experience. Being in the woods for a couple days with only the people around you and the limited amount of resources we had, we learned just how capable we were. If the weather was bad or something, we had to find ways to make it through, and I liked that the most, how the leaders put the responsibility in our hands and taught us to lead with each other rather than just lead for our individual benefit Our leaders focused on how our school is a community and the friends we made on this trip were our little community too. This was emphasized when one of us was falling behind on a hike or could not complete a task on their own. Others were always there to help. The trip really enforced that you shouldn’t just sit around if something isn’t working well for you, or not what you want, because there are tons of other communities and people around here that are willing to hang out with you and can offer something for you.
Other aspects I thought were really important were the messages in each lesson and how our outdoor experiences coincided with them. The New River Gorge rafting trip was long and tough but in an exciting way. We stopped along the way to jump off a big rock into the river and were able to enjoy the scenery along the river, which was beautiful. Looking along the banks, seeing dilapidated remnants of old coal mining structures, peaks of the mountains, and seeing people climbing on the long cliff faces, the entire scenery astounded me. Rafting the New River was a really cool way to end the trip, the rapids were big and challenging, but getting through it, and enjoying the experience with my new friends was very rewarding.
Through this trip, I was also able to learn a lot about myself and what my limits were. We were given a time of reflection for a lesson one day in which we were separated and told to stay still, quiet, and reflect. During my reflection, I was able to objectively see how beneficial this trip was for me. I made new friends from different states, I was able to have easy conversations, and the introvert I was before became a thing of the past for me. I realized that my limitations are only limited by me. The trip made me more aware of my surroundings but also the opportunities and people that are around me. It has made me more adventurous and outgoing. It made me realize that I only have a finite amount of time here, and how I choose to spend it is up to me. I can either make it the best four years or let the challenges and stresses build and make it a tough four years, rather than experiencing things I’ve always wanted to or learning through those experiences. It has made me more open to trying things.
I was able to make actual relationships because I was forced to not be an introvert. The people I met and became friends with on the trip are people I care about deeply and who care about each other as well. We all were in the same boat essentially; none of us knew each other. By the end of the trip, everyone was closer than some of their friends from back home.
I do not think I will ever be able to put into words how beneficial this trip was for all aspects of my college life. Prior to coming to WVU, I believed I had the plans and ideas and materials needed to succeed here. I was nervous too. This is my first experience on my own. The trip was able to translate my fears and my egos into a manner that I could build off of. My egos were about how prepared and ready I felt since I took a gap year before attending school here. The trip humbled me in that respect. I was taught more about school resources and opportunities than I had thought and would have taken advantage of. My fears subsided once I knew I had friends here.
My first-year adventure trip will always be something I hold close to me because of the lessons it taught me and the people it brought me close to. I do not think this trip could have been better led or organized. I am forever grateful for this opportunity.
Written by John Thomas
Edited by Bridget Hawkins