As I prepared to move back to campus last Thursday, three days earlier than everyone else, I was questioning why I had ever thought it was a good idea to sign up for RoadTrip.
I signed up back in the fall because all of my junior friends who attended last year told me that RoadTrip was one of the greatest things I could possibly do while at Loyola, though they didn’t say much more about it. All I knew was that RoadTrip was a weekend-long retreat for sophomores run by Student Engagement, focused on reflection on past experiences and discernment about your life’s path and purpose.
So knowing that, I signed up for RoadTrip, made my roommates sign up as well, and then quickly forgot about the whole thing … until the end of the winter break I enjoyed so much with my family and friends at home. I packed up my Jeep and picked up my roommate at the airport on our way back home … Loyola.
Despite our premature regrets, doubts, and complaining, I have never been happier to say that my roommates and I were proven wrong by the afternoon of our first day on retreat at Willow Valley Resort in Lancaster, PA.
I’ve been on many, many retreats before, but it wasn’t long before I knew this one was different. The talks, given on the key questions (based around the idea of what brings us joy and what we can do with those things that bring us joy), had various perspectives, but all of which we, as participants, found we could somehow relate to.
The retreat (which is different from other retreats at Loyola, being focused more on reflection and discernment about one’s life than faith, per se) was run by Student Engagement, the office on campus dedicated to giving Loyola students opportunities to bond with their classmates, explore Baltimore, and get the most out of their four years here.
The Atlases were student leaders on RoadTrip, juniors and seniors who were close to us in age and experience, but also guides and companions on our journeys of personal reflection. Compasses were faculty members, most of whom were professors I had never met before who became friends and mentors during that weekend, and some of whom I found I could really connect with and still plan to keep in contact with in the future. For example, the compass for my small group was a professor who, like me, plays the saxophone, and we’re planning a jam session in the near future.
Though I loved so many things about RoadTrip, including the talks by atlases and compasses, private time to journal and reflect, and the “coffeehouse”/talent show on Saturday night, my favorite aspect, by far, was the small group. During all of my previous retreats, I haven’t had much of a foundation with my fellow small-group members to form any kind of bond, but in this case, that was different. Our small group (like all of them) was put together because of something we had in common based on our responses to short-answer questions prior to the retreat. Because of this, though I was with a few people I knew and a few I had never met before, I felt incredibly safe with my group and willing to open up and discuss things with them, even in the span of a few short days. As a matter of fact, I’m grabbing coffee at the end of the week with one of the members of my small group, a new friend.
After RoadTrip, meeting new friends, and dedicating large chunks of time to reflecting personally and with my peers, I went into the spring semester of my sophomore year with a relaxed mindset (a rarity for me) and a commitment to allowing myself to pursue those things in my life that bring me joy, rather than those things that stress me out to no end and I just feel like I have to do.
In what I believe to be a quite relevant sign, halfway through RoadTrip I received an email from Loyola’s Office of International Programs that I had been accepted to the study abroad program I applied for, and I will be spending my entire junior year as a student in Scotland at the University of Glasgow. This has been my dream, to return to the land of my ancestors for my study abroad experience, for as long as I can remember. Knowing now that it will be realized, as soon as this August when I leave, I am a little nervous, but mostly thrilled for this new adventure. I look forward to a lot of reflecting and discerning on my current life path both in the upcoming days and during my time in Scotland.