Preparing for finals is the best time to reflect on the things that helped you through the semester so far. Think about what made you feel uncomfortable and what you did to feel at home again. For me, many struggles appear outside of the realm of classes. I would occasionally feel down about my involvement and not finding a club that I felt I belonged in. This often came with the reminder that having a job really gets in the way of being able to learn more about and spend time with those in my cohort.
For this, I try to look back on the mentor and mentee retreat that the Leader Advancement Scholars of first and second year students went on. Each incoming freshmen gets and mentor (from the sophomore class) and sometimes a mentor gets two mentees. We go on a retreat in the beginning of the fall that brings together mentor and mentee as well as the two classes as a whole.
Unfortunately, my mentor couldn’t be there until late night on the first day. My friend, Derek, and his mentor, Garrett, made sure that I was able to work with them for group activities. Although another group could have done this, they were considerate enough to be the first to offer to take me into their group. I had my first sense of belonging since coming to school with all of LAS. I was fortunate that I didn’t need someone assigned to me to make me feel more comfortable. I love my mentor so much, but since she couldn’t be there, I felt so lucky to have friends already.
After some intense mind games and even some physically challenging games, we had time to relax. And by relax, I mean play basketball, volleyball, gagaball, and go for a walk. During this time, I talked with some mentors and mentees that I hadn’t gotten much of a chance to before. Somehow, by the magic of the retreat, we even turned into what student’s here like to call a “cuddle puddle”. The appreciation I feel for those sort of moments don’t come immediately.
Some time later is when realize the importance of these simple moments.
When night fell, over 90 LAS students gathered around a large fire. Despite my nerves for fitting in and being understood, I found myself comfortable. Around the fire, I could make out individual faces that were warmly lit by orange colors in the dark, cold, blue night air. Student began telling stories. No matter who it was, every other person at the fire listened intently. It was as if everything that came out of a person’s mouth fueled our gradually kindled spirits.
Out of all the social situations I have been in, I had never seen anything like it. After sharing a fun story, or something that we were thankful for about LAS members, we were encouraged to find specific people who have impacted us so far. Once we find each person, we thanked them for something that they have done for us. In my case, I thanked people for the things they had done with me. For me, shared experiences become more than just memories. These times become sources of growth and mutual understanding between hearts and minds. This is important in true connections which gave me all the more reason to be thankful and tell friends.
That night, everyone moved their beds out of their bunks and into the common room of the cabin. Small beds covered the floor where everyone slept in the warmth and comfort of old and new found friendships.