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Explore!

A small group of students, staff and faculty join hands at the Explore! Retreat for first year students during J-Term. (Photo by John Froschauer)

Explore! retreat helps students understand vocation, and just have fun

By Katie Scaff '13

The annual Explore! retreat offers students the chance to have fun and make new friends, but unlike other first –year programs it also offers students the opportunity to reflect on their journey and consider broader questions of meaning and purpose.

They talk about what they want to do with their one wild and precious life, what they’re passionate about, and a variety of other big enough questions to help set them on their vocational journey.

“I didn’t know very much going in,” said Kristin Hayes ’15, a psychology and women’s and gender studies double major. “I was expecting it to be more like freshman orientation week where it’s another way to meet people and have fun. It wasn’t like I didn’t meet people and have fun, but it was so such more philosophical.”

Hayes participated in last year’s Explore! retreat, but returned this year as a facilitator, working with another student and a PLU faculty and staff member to lead discussions with a small group of first-year students.

“We talked about big enough questions and understanding what those are. A lot of those big enough questions are going to always be unanswered and that’s okay. That’s where your journey will take you. They will be there your whole life,” Hayes said.

The goal isn’t to have students leave with answers, but with tools to ask these types of questions, according to Eva Frey Johnson, Dean for Student Development, Director of Student Involvement and Leadership, and Explore! co-coordinator.

“Students really enjoy the retreat,” Johnson said. “They leave with a better sense of how PLU can support them and how they can support themselves.”

The program was started nine years ago as part of the Wild Hope Project and later institutionalized by the office of Student Involvement and Leadership.

“It was looking for a way to engage students, especially first-year students, in a conversation about vocation,” Johnson said.

For Hayes, attending Explore! inspired her to get involved in leadership. In addition to being an Explore! facilitator, she’s also involved in Red Carpet Club and Women’s Ultimate Frisbee.

This year, she thinks first-years learned to put things into perspective.

“They really took away that life is so much beyond your college years and that it’s okay not to know what you’re going to do,” Hayes said. “We’re all on the same journey where we’re trying to figure out what we want to do. No matter where you are in life you’re still unsure about a lot of things.”