One benefit of attending a small college is that it enables students to get to know each other and the staff and faculty well. If you want to get to know people, you will.
One unique way students connect is through overnight service trips. Each semester students have an opportunity to volunteer on several service trips, including a week-long service trip option for spring break. There is nothing like sharing a room with seven other people to bond you together.
I found this to be true when I went on the Hattiesburg, Mississippi trip in the spring of 2022. This was such a fun time to have long conversations with my peers and just learn about their lives. Over the week, we reroofed a house and rebuilt a new deck ramp for a local man in Hattiesburg. It was hard work, but everyone pitched in to make it possible.
It was on this trip that I met Asia Sherman. She just finished her first year as an environmental science major. I’m an English major, so our paths had not crossed. While in Mississippi, however, we discovered our mutual interest in backpacking.
For those who are unfamiliar, backpacking is a combination of camping and hiking. You start at a trail head with all your gear strapped to your back and hike to your camp site. The next morning you pack everything up and hike to a new site, and this goes on until you finish the trail. As with most hobbies, backpacking is a whole world of information, equipment and community.
I got into backpacking a couple of years ago and have been hooked ever since. Asia went on a backpacking trip when she was in high school and really enjoyed the experience. Given my love for the hobby, as soon as we got back from the service trip, I asked Asia if she would like to go on a backpacking trip with me, and she enthusiastically said yes and added, “My initial thought was that it’ll be exciting and refreshing to share an adventure with new friends who have the same interests as me.”
We loaded up with our significant others and hit the trail. Taking advantage of the gorgeous summer weather of northwest Michigan, we hiked a 23-mile loop on the Manistee River. Our days were spent walking the beautiful trail, and our evenings were spent talking around a cozy fire. The conversations ranged from our favorite hobbies to movies we enjoy to family life and everything in between.
Three days later, we emerged from the woods dirty, sweaty, tired and happy. Backpacking might not be for everyone, but we found it to be peaceful and restorative. Three days unplugged and in nature is just good for the soul. Asia felt that the trip was a good metaphor for life and said, “I learned how important it is to pace yourself and to not focus only on the end goal, otherwise you might miss something extraordinary along the way!”
The best part of this experience is that The University of Olivet’s service trip brought me and Asia together. We are in different majors, different extra-curriculars and different class standings. Without the service trip, I may not have met her. I am so grateful for this experience and that The University of Olivet made it possible. Not only do I have so many great memories, but I have a new friend.
Learn more about The University of Olivet by contacting the Office of Admission at 269-749-7635 or email@example.com.
This feature was written by Savannah Baker, a senior studying English and business. The former editor of Olivet’s literary journal, Garfield Lake Review, Savannah now pursues her interest in writing and editing as a marketing intern with The University of Olivet.