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The Outdoor Pursuits Rental Center in Ping Recreation Center in Athens, Ohio, Feb. 8, 2024

New Adventures fosters community among new Bobcats

For some, the idea of spending the night in the woods invokes feelings of anxiety, stress and overall negativity. Add onto that the impending, life-changing event that is a student’s first semester of college, and doing anything outside is a no-go.

However, the Office of Wellbeing and Recreation is shifting the dread of change to excitement using nature, student perspectives and camping. Through its New Adventures program — a part of Ohio University’s broader Outdoor Pursuits Program — Well-being and Recreation has connected incoming freshmen with their peers and potential mentors for over two decades.

There are three different trip options under the New Adventures banner: backpacking in the Grayson Highlands in Virginia, expedition canoeing in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota or backpacking along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. The programs cost $100, $250 and $500, respectively, with $100 scholarships available for the latter two.

The New Adventures program offers an early insight into leadership for participants, according to program leader Clint Young, a sophomore studying outdoor recreation education and physical activity and sports coaching.

“The first couple days of the trip we front load a lot of information on how to do backcountry navigation, how to use a compass, how to read a map and stuff like that,” he said. “We always have a pair of students on the trip that are the trip leaders for the day. Basically, they're the ones that are in charge of navigating us for the day.”

This leadership experience is very uplifting for students and can be a much-needed morale booster before the beginning of their semesters, Young continued. 

“Myself and the co-leader of the program, we're just giving them guidance throughout the day, but it always gives them this huge opportunity for leadership,” he said. “(It) makes them feel really empowered, and really is just a big stepping stone and big confidence builder. This is pretty serious, and there's some big consequences; college shouldn't be that bad after this.”

This confidence on the trail does translate to confidence on campus, freshman nursing student Selma Lamsettef said. Her experience of trying something new to her emboldened her experience at OU.

“I did not think I could do this trip; I got there in the middle of the woods and they told me we'd be carrying canoes,” she said. “I did not know how to do that. But then, by the fifth day (a program leader) was showing me how to hoist this canoe up on my shoulders by myself.”

Lamsettef continued on some of the activities that impacted her time spent on her trip. 

“Every day in the mornings, they would do a sort of mindfulness thing, whether it be yoga on top of a giant rock or just giving kudos to our fellow teammates,” she said. “And we also did a similar thing at the end of the night. But we … addressed college issues, like worries we had for college or any advice from one of them, and it was very helpful.”

Preparation for these trips takes a lot of logistical thinking and administrative tasks, something program leader and senior studying information graphics and public design, Abigail Lindley, can attest to.

“The planning for New Adventures happens, I would say, even a year to two years before it even occurs,” Lindley said. “My boss, co-director of Well-being and Recreation, along with our TAs (team assistants) work to kind of make sure this trip happens before even the summer can start. That includes registering for permits, things like that, that people wouldn't even think about that are happening.”

Additionally, Lindley emphasized the training that each Well-being and Recreation employee has to go on before each of these trips.

“There's going to be a week-long prep period where usually our director is going to be working to train their staff,” Lindley said. “When you're out there, people are really close together – just emotionally, that's a totally normal thing. But we have to make sure that leaders are prepared to be able to handle situations of anxiety and homesickness and anything that might arise.”

While many people may be hesitant to participate in one of the New Adventures programs, Cody Lennon, the Outdoor Pursuits director, encourages any student coming to OU to participate. 

“It's not an opportunity that people come across every day to get such an intentional way to start a new experience that is college life,” Lennon said. “If folks are thinking if they have an interest in being outside, if they have an interest in being with a small group of people and having those intentional conversations, it's one of those things, I think you should jump in feet first.”


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