In the busyness of everyday life, the need for rest and refreshment can easily be overlooked – particularly for college students.
Between all of the work that clamors for attention – homework, exams, jobs – it can be difficult for SPU students to remember this need and create time to address it.
The Office of Residence Life at Seattle Pacific University recognizes this, so each year the residence halls attend a short retreat to gain a fresh perspective and enjoy fellowship with one another.
The first of the halls to participate in retreat were Emerson and Arnett over the weekend of Oct. 7 and 8 at Camp Casey.
Waves thrashed against the shore as gray clouds loomed overhead Camp Casey on the morning of Oct. 7.
This former US Army base on Whidbey Island has now become the designated retreat location for SPU students and is popular for its striking view of the water as well as its military landmarks.
Retreat was advertised among all five of the residence halls from the start of the academic year, and members of the hall council have been planning the details of this trip since the past spring.
Arnett Hall Council President Caitlin Johnson said, “Arnett is small compared to other halls, so we go with Emerson, who is a bigger group and also close by.”
“You usually see familiar faces, and our halls partner up with each other, so it creates a family feel and invokes the residents to be together.”
The weekend was full of activities created to build relationships and foster a sense of community between the residents of Emerson and Arnett halls.
Among these included capture the flag, which was a hit among the students because it caused the different halls to come together.
Teams were divided among the various floors, which built a sense of camaraderie with both new and old friends.
Another activity that helped create community between the halls was called a game called “speed-friending.” The goal of this activity was intended to help students meet and converse with people they would not normally associate with.
Students answered prompts read off by hall council members and were given a limited amount of time to respond with a partner:
“If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose?”
“In your opinion, what are the seven wonders of the world?”
The final question asked,“What is a goal you have for yourself this year?”
The answers brought out both laughs and bonding.
An important element to SPU retreats is the focus on community and student relationships. For many, this alone provided the refreshment they needed out of a retreat.
Camp Casey has many places to explore, from the beach to old Army bunkers, so groups of students from both halls went out to explore during free time.
“My favorite part [of retreat] this year was exploring the fort with everyone and the evening activities. It’s a good way to get to know people and build memories,” second year Allison Meharg said.
Some activities in retreat, however, were more intended for self-reflection and renewal.
Emerson and Arnett Residence Life Coordinators set up a “Ted Talk” video for everyone to watch that dug deep into the topic of self.
Before listening to others, students were given a moment to listen to themselves first. This time of self reflection helped pave the way for the fruitful conversation that followed.
Arnett Residence Life Coordinator Susie Becker advised the groups “to listen in order to understand one another, rather than listening to just respond.” She explained that listening is key to relating with others.
This activity allowed time for small groups to answers questions and listen to each other about when they have felt most like themselves, as well as when they have felt like they didn’t belong.
This activity created an atmosphere of intimacy and fostered meaningful relationships with floormates and friends.
This element of reflection is important in a retreat because it can bring a great deal of clarity and peace to students with a need to share their thoughts or feelings.
“On the retreat you really get to figure out who people are and create better friendships with the people on your floor who you see every day,” first year Mercy Alsworth said.
On Saturday night students came alive and participated in a game of sardines. For this game, two hall council members hid on the campgrounds and students went in search of them.
Later that night, the Emerson and Arnett hall councils hosted a dance party in the main auditorium. Here, everyone had the opportunity to show off their best – or most entertaining – dance moves.
Some first year students capitalized on the opportunity to talk with upperclassmen and gained advice for the year ahead.
As the weekend came to a close and students prepared for their return to Seattle Pacific, a new sense of community and calmness was palpable among the crowd.
For many, this short retreat was exactly what students needed.
“We’re just trying to make it feel more like home. It’s a great experience for people to get off campus and experience the beauty of Washington together,” Johnson said.
An opportunity to retreat from campus, relate with others and refresh may be the most important thing for a student to do in preparation for the year ahead.
Ashton, Hill, and Moyer Halls will go on retreat through the rest of the month.