Lisa Brown’s transition to university life was made easier by pushing her limits on 50 feet of Ontario’s best limestone rock walls.
For Tyler Champagne, participating in a week-long canoe made attending Brock after high school seem less daunting.
While other future Badgers have opted for campus tours and reading material to prepare them for the personal and academic demands ahead of them, Brown and Champagne turned to the great outdoors through Brock BaseCamp.
BaseCamp is an outdoor orientation program, offering rock climbing, canoeing and backpacking excursions in August to help incoming undergraduate students learn about life at Brock.
Trips are three to five days long and led by current upper year Brock students, who share their own experiences and advice to help new students feel more confident and connected to the University going into their first year. All the while participants bond over their outdoor experience.
Not only do they start university equipped with knowledge to be successful, they also have friends they made on the trail, water or hanging off a cliff.
“It was a great way to meet new people because it’s an overnight trip, so you become close,” said Brown, a second-year recreation and leisure studies student. “(It) took away any fear and anxiety that you have – which I did – about going to school.”
The friends Champagne made during his BaseCamp experience three years ago still remain in touch today, he said.
He also got advice from trip leaders that continues to resonate.
“One of the things (the leaders) said was to get involved as much as you can,” Champagne said.
Though initially he said he felt too shy to do that, Champagne has since started heeding those words, making him feel more at ease in new situations.
Stories like those of Brown and Champagne are typical of BaseCamp participants, said Anna Lathrop, Vice-Provost of Teaching and Learning.
Lathrop, who co-founded the program three years ago with Tim O’Connell, chair of Recreation and Leisure Studies, said BaseCamp participants go on to be Brock ambassadors, loyal to the university and touting the merits of the program to incoming students at open houses and recruitment events.
“It’s a recruitment and retention initiative designed to build community and foster an affinity for Brock,” Lathrop said.
She noted students aren’t the only ones who benefit from a BaseCamp experience.
“Parents are also excited about the experience because they’re concerned that their son or daughter makes friends and bonds with people before they officially arrive on campus to begin their studies,” she said. “This is a surefire way to do that.”
Adding to that feeling further, participants in this year’s BaseCamp canoe trip have the opportunity to move into residence early on Aug. 27 before heading to Algonquin for a five-day paddle.