Bryan Craig snaps a photo on top of Wayah Bald on the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina.
After graduating from high school, coming to a university can be overwhelming, especially if you don't know anyone.
Through the Freshman Wilderness Experience, BGSU's Outdoor Program offers students the opportunity to make new friends and learn about being college students before the semester begins. In summer 2008, the Outdoor Program created its first partnership with the academic side of the University to create the experience, a weeklong backpacking trip followed by a monthly class session to help incoming freshmen transition into college life.
"The experience itself is done outdoors in the wilderness, either on the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina or canoeing in northern Michigan," said Interim Director of Outdoor Programs Jerome Gabriel. "It starts with the location. You're completely out of the classroom, and it's not your normal environment. Students are put into a group with seven freshmen, two upperclassmen and one faculty member.
"Through the team builders that we do, through the classroom discussions every night and just the experience out there, students start to develop these really deep relationships with each other, much more than what you would normally get out of two freshmen just meeting on campus."
"I'm still friends with all the people I met on my trip three years ago," said Bryan Craig, a sophomore athletic training major and student trip leader. "Making these friendships makes it that much easier to come to campus."
Beyond making new friends, the experience helps prepare them to be leaders. "Freshmen that I see from the trips are in leadership positions across campus," said Craig.
Although the students are not always familiar with wilderness camping, the staff members leading the groups are very experienced. A $12,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources this year allowed the program to expand through the purchase of additional equipment.
The Outdoor Program has received the national David J. Webb Program Excellence Award from the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.
Be sure to join President Cartwright as she delivers her annual State of the University address tomorrow (Sept. 24) at 10:00 a.m. in the Lenhart Grand Ballroom in the
Bowen-Thompson Student Union. Enjoy coffee and fellowship with colleagues beginning at 9:30.
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