Picture yourself waist deep in Jackson Hole powder or atop a beautiful rock climb in Joshua Tree National Park. Here at St. Lawrence University you can receive REAL college credit for these adventures. These might be some of the most extraordinary classrooms in the world. The St. Lawrence Outdoor Program offers credit for these opportunities. The Outdoor Program, or OP, is a unique department because they stand by the fact that access to wilderness is key to lifelong relationships and adventure. The mission is simple: create excitement about exploration and provide the opportunity for anyone to have a memorable experience outdoors. Personally, I cannot thank the Outdoor Program enough for the people they have introduced me to, and the experiences I will cherish forever.
My Outdoor Program story starts during the first week of college classes when my newest friend asked me to go to the Climbing Wall with him. I had little to no rock climbing experience and I will always remember the butterflies in my stomach when I reached the top of the wall, looking back at where I came from. I met two other Laurentians that night, and those three individuals have become my closest friends. After the fall semester flew by, we were all on the plane headed to Joshua Tree, California, to partake in a 10-day rock climbing trip at one of the climbing meccas of the world. Throughout the course, we learned an array of hard and soft skills to progress our climbing and interpersonal skills. The trip was led by two senior rock climbing guides; as well as our climbing director, Devin Farkas. Every day contained challenging yet rewarding experiences. We engaged in readings about climbers who brought the sport to where it is today and gained a deeper understanding of the impact of climbing beyond the sport itself.
Every SLU trip I have been lucky enough to be apart of comes with a special sense of camaraderie that I only feel when experiencing the outdoors with my fellow community members. The St. Lawrence community is undoubtedly special, but to take a piece of it with you whilst exploring gives me an unmatched love for that experience. While in Joshua Tree, every group of climbers we met were amazed that our college offered such an opportunity to their students. Our group was close knit and our relationships only grew when we returned to campus. St. Lawrence is one big family but you will find many smaller families that will allow you to connect about your passions and interests. This is a major part of a liberal arts education because our family offers so many talented individuals across every field possible.
Rock climbing was my attempt to try something new and it has become an integral part of my life. I learned what it means fail; it builds character and puts things into perspective. This is relatable to many aspects of college because everyone partakes in their own journey: at SLU you will learn more about yourself than you may have ever thought possible. I cannot promise rock climbing will become everyone’s passion, but the new things you try and the challenges you face throughout your St. Lawrence experience are invaluable.
The college experience is all about utilizing the opportunities your university has to offer and for me, St. Lawrence's Outdoor Program is a major reason I am so deeply connected to St. Lawrence. The relationships you make are dependent on the adventures you take on, and these trips will introduce you to your best friends and friends you never thought you’d have. A SLU education is immensely diverse because of the perspectives you will gain throughout your college adventure. Your learning will be challenged beyond the textbook, so might as well explore beyond the classroom setting.
Remember, these adventures are for course credit and they will take you to unimaginably beautiful settings, while teaching you in ways you cannot find any place else.
Video credit to Will Millerchip '20 (@willmillerchipfilms on Instagram)