Off on an Adventure

From: Public Affairs

Small groups of first-year students particpate in Madison Orientation Adventure Trips.

Going off to college is an adventure for many first-year students. In addition to visiting James Madison University for the one-day Summer Springboard orientation program, some members of the Class of 2016 chose to literally embark on an adventure by signing up for a Madison Orientation Adventure Trip.

According to Sue Lowley, coordinator of adventure and challenge course programs for University Recreation, the program has several goals: to introduce students to UREC, to forge connections between students and to expose students to the areas surrounding JMU. "A lot of times students don't realize the natural recreation possibilities available to them," said Lowley.

From a single trip offered in 2004, MOAT has expanded to eight trips over the course of summer 2012. After attending Summer Springboard during the day, students proceed to UREC to start their adventure trip. Within a couple of hours the group of 10 to 12 first-year students has been issued gear, pitched tents behind the building and headed off to the UREC challenge course.

Lowley estimates that this is the first camping experience for 90 percent of the students who participate in the three-day outdoor adventure. That was true for sophomore Emily Grunwald, an athletic training major from Purcellville, Va. "I learned about the adaptability of myself, as I have never been tent camping and have never been on a trip in the woods with people I have never met, but I enjoyed it greatly," said Grunwald.

Timothy Kropp, an earth science major from Medford, N.Y., participated in a MOAT for transfer students that canoed the Shenandoah River in early June. "The scenery was amazing and everyone involved was very friendly and informative," said Kropp. "I never realized that there was so much to do outside of the campus. I would very much like to do more of these trips."

Several of the three-day MOAT trips canoe the Shenandoah River. Other trips include backpacking Dolly Sods Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, rock climbing in the George Washington National Forest and participating in a combined hiking and climbing trip in Shenandoah National Park.

MOATs are led by two upperclass students trained to lead adventure trips. "These are rising juniors and seniors," said Lowley. "An important piece is having students leading the trips because it opens up lines of discussion."

Kropp really valued that interaction with the trip leaders. "It is a great opportunity to learn more about yourself and the school just by talking to the current students that supervise the trips," he said.

In fact, while learning adventure skills and seeing beautiful scenery are important pieces of the program, it is the intangible bonding and relationship building that students remember most according to Lowley.

"In this scenario no one has an advantage and everyone is on a level playing field allowing all to get to know each other by who they really are," said Grunwald. "I met some great people on this trip and it was a great introduction to JMU."

Even with the promise of no cell phone service and no showers, the MOATs have sold out the past three years. "I would definitely recommend this trip to any incoming freshman or transfer," said Kropp.

For more information: Madison Orientation Adventure Trips

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July 22, 2011
updated May 24, 2012