Along with three senior outdoor adventure students and physical education professor Morten Asfeldt, the students from a variety of programs headed out on a backpacking trip in the Rocky Mountains west of Nordegg, Alberta. While exploring the natural world, they camped, cooked, and laughed together. They also learned about being university students and gained confidence heading into their first year of university.
“My mom saw the First-Year Adventure on the website and asked me if I wanted to do it,” said Andrew Jacobs, an economics student in the Bachelor of Management program. “It sounded like an awesome idea. I decided to try it because I had never camped outside in a tent before or gone on an overnight hiking trip, and I thought it was a great way to meet other first years.”
There are many challenges when students leave home to attend university: they are usually most concerned about being accepted by their new peers, making new friends and figuring out how to “live away from home.” Research shows that not only is a student’s social success tied to higher academic performance, but participants in outdoor orientation programs are more likely to graduate from university, have higher grades, stronger social support systems and make healthier lifestyle choices than those who do not participate in these programs.
Augustana’s Residence Services Department and Outdoor Education Program joined forces to develop the First-Year Adventure to provide an opportunity for students to develop social support structures prior to the beginning of classes and moving into dorms.
With his new group of friends, Andrew hiked and tented, swam in an icy lake, hiked up a mountain, had campfire talks, got to know everyone, learned about university, and had a great time. “My favorite was climbing up the mountain, the day we stayed at the lake,” he said. “It was amazing when we all reached the top together and looked back at where we started. It was a great sense of accomplishment.”
The First-Year Adventure was designed for beginners and experts alike. Program leaders were there to guide, encourage, and support the students.
“As a senior student, it was a great privilege to share the hiking experience with new students,” said 3rd-year B.Sc. student Hans Asfeldt. “I enjoyed sharing my own university experiences with them and it was interesting to hear about their own perspectives. Just hiking the trail, summiting, and sitting around the fire at night was enough to allow the development of several new friendships.”
“Since starting school again this September, I cannot count the times that I have run into friends from First Year Adventure,” Hans grinned. “They seem to pop up everywhere and there is always a friendly hello that sometimes makes me late for class. The group strikes me as one that feels very much at home after only a few days at university.”
First-Year Adventure students will continue to meet over the next few months to talk about life as university students, and continue to develop the bonds that were kindled around a mountaintop campfire.
“I would absolutely recommend the adventure to other students,” said Andrew. “It was a great experience for first time hikers, and an awesome way to meet some really cool students before university started. The small group was actually really nice, as we all got really close to each other over the week. Next year there will likely be more people, but it will be awesome either way!”
“The First Year Adventure experience is one to be cherished,” agreed Hans. “Only once do you have the opportunity to be a first year student, and First Year Adventure will enrich the experience and prepare you for a successful year of university.
“Already on the drive home from the Rockies, a first year student who had planned to transfer to Edmonton after one year shared the sense that Augustana might just be the right place to spend all four years, and classes hadn’t even started yet!”