Hello! Are you an incoming freshmen or prospective student that can’t recall the last time you had to introduce yourself to someone new? Or maybe you’d describe yourself as outgoing, but the prospect of reinventing yourself terrifies you to no end? Do you honestly have no idea how you’re going to make friends in college? Well, join the club, kid. Contrary to what my snark might suggest, however, I have a solution for you.
The Leadership and Experimental Learning Department at Rutgers hosts a summer program called “Camp UKnight”, a three-day getaway to Stony Acres in the Poconos, which has two sessions in the beginning of August. According to its website, its mission is to “to help incoming first year and transfer students build an instant and sustainable community of friends to help ease the transition into college life.” I signed up for Camp UKnight not only for the deliciously layered pun, but because the prospect of starting meeting new people, to some extent, frightened me. Rutgers has a population of approximately 40,000 students, and for a 5’0 girl like me it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the crowd. True to its mission statement, however, Camp UKnight introduced me to a group of people who helped me find my niche before I officially became a Scarlet Knight.
Without going into too much detail (a cardinal sin that I am well-known for by my peers), Camp UKnight has students engage in trust and team-building exercises, among them being the ropes course and hiking through Boulder Field.During the three days, you slowly start to warm up to your fifty something as you get put into different groups, depending on the activity. This gives you ample opportunity to meet and get to know different people, even if they aren’t in your main group. It is up to you how personal or serious you make the activity, but you soon find out that everyone is there to encourage you and is willing to listen to your thoughts. In activities like Leadership Speed Dating, students are posed a question and told to say nothing as their partner answers. It teaches you to absorb what the other person is saying and have different perspectives on otherwise mundane topics. You do get free time to mentally relax and do whatever you want with your newfound friends. Or, if you’re me, accidentally spray the fire alarm with bug spray and setting it off in my friend’s cabin. In my defense, I had seen my cabin mate do it the previous night and, well, I wasn’t aware of its flammability. It was a good joke amongst my group. The purpose of these activities are to get kids out of their comfort zone and learn to trust their peers, something that I personally found admirable. I’ve been to longer and more intensive summer camps, but never have I connected with people quite as much as I did here. What I took away from Camp UKnight was something one of my peers had brought up: not every leader is an extrovert. This really stuck with me because my conception of a leader was someone whose voice was always heard, a go-getter delegating their group. What never occurred to me was that a leader could be someone quiet, leading the group not through words but with supportive action. There are many different types of leaders, and its important to realize that everyone is capable of becoming one.
Why should you attend Camp UKnight? I will admit, the program doesn’t offer you life-altering advice, but it presents you with something, in my opinion, more profound: an opportunity. If you’re nervous about what college might bring you, the best thing you can do is to take a deep breath and leap. You might discover something new about yourself.