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The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Discovery 2018: An Outdoors Guide to Finding Yourself


Even though your four years in college promise to prepare you for the huge and daunting “Adult World” once you graduate, being a student on a campus like Loyola’s has a funny way of making the world feel small. At Loyola, students often find themselves restricted to the tiny “bubble” of the Evergreen campus, constantly shuttling across the Quad from one academic building to another.

Between the hustle and bustle of classes, exams, and extra-curricular activities, we students barely have time to invest in our own self growth and can sometimes feel directionless in our pursuit of professional careers.

In the spring, hammocks and slack lines litter the quad, with groups of friends soaking up the sun in between classes, but the dread of Finals Week still looms overhead. Is there ever time to just breathe?

Lucky for Loyola, the Outdoors Adventure Experience (OAE) group and the Office of Student Engagement offer an end-of-the-year opportunity to do just this. DISCOVERY is a week-long outdoor adventure along the Appalachian Trail that includes backpacking, reflection, and camping.

Co-led by Jen Cusick, the Assistant Director of Recreational Sports, Ashley Schantz, the Assistant Director for Class Year and Discernment Programs from the Office of Student Engagement, and two OAE student leaders, the trip is the perfect opportunity to engage in discernment while spending time in the great outdoors.

The program is a chance for students of all years to slow down the pace of their busy lives and dedicate a week to exploring their vocations and thinking about their goals for the rest of their academic careers.

No prior backpacking or camping experience is needed to embark on this journey. DISCOVERY welcomes those unfamiliar with the ways of the back country, and even encourage their participation.

The physical aspect of the retreat was a point of both challenge and reward for many of those who went on the journey last May.

“I challenged myself to be in new environments. I never camped, hiked, backpacked and rock climbed before, let alone [spent] 6 days on the Appalachian Trail!” – Michelle Boca ’20 said.

Though the trip is embarked on as a group, DISCOVERY puts a heavy emphasis on individual participants’ goals and personal reflection. Toward the end of the 5-day trip, an entire day is dedicated to students spending time alone in nature.

“Solo Day was honestly the highlight of my DISCOVER trip [last year]. It gave me the outlet I needed to reflect on where I was as a student and who I was in all facets of my community in that moment. I was able to focus in on what vocation means to me and center my goals for the upcoming year and beyond,” Hannah Loiselle ’19 said.

Despite only being five days long, the retreat provides its participants with tools to carry out the same practices of discernment even in the midst of their busy campus lives, or no matter how far away they are from the Appalachian Trail.

“Maintaining a clear vision of your purpose and priorities in life is an ongoing process.  I have found that learning how to continually reflect and evaluate your next step, personally, interpersonally, or professionally, better prepares you to address challenges,” Schantz said.

DISCOVERY is the perfect opportunity to dedicate the time to questions that are the most plaguing, no matter where you are in your life. Whether you’re a first year or a graduating senior, DISCOVERY is sure to offer you new insight into your life goals.

“[DISCOVERY helped my figure out] my major! I started thinking about what I value the most and what my gifts and passions are,” Boca said.

“DISCOVERY is such a unique opportunity to find your inner strength as you encounter the outdoors.  It just takes the courage to leap into something slightly beyond your normal comfort zone,” Schantz said.

Information sessions for those who want to take the leap will be held on March 14 and 15 at 6 p.m. in Flannery Multipurpose Room. See you there!

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Discovery 2018: An Outdoors Guide to Finding Yourself