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Campus & Community Faith & Spirituality Student Features

CSB and SJU student groups making spring break trips

College of Saint Benedict sophomore Lauren Sitzman traveled with her family often growing up.

But it was her grandmother or parents who took care of the arrangements, mapped out the itinerary and led the way.

“I was a kid,” she said with a laugh. “I just showed up.”

That began to change when Sitzman enrolled at CSB and elected to take part in Collegebound – an optional outdoor orientation program and learning experience for incoming first-year or transfer students at CSB and Saint John’s University.

The program – which runs each August – is sponsored by Outdoor U. The newcomers travel to the Boundary Waters or the North Shore in northeastern Minnesota and canoe and camp in groups led by more experienced students.

Sitzman said it’s a good way to get to know fellow students in a different setting before beginning on campus and to pick up valuable skills as well.

“I really loved my experience,” she said. “I gained a lot of confidence and the leaders all seemed like great people. It showed me that (Outdoor U) is something I really wanted to be part of.

“So during the second semester last year, I applied for (Outdoor U’s) peer resource program.”

That meant Sitzman was one of the leaders on last August’s Collegebound excursion, as well as on Outdoor U’s recreational trip to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota over the 2023 fall break.

Next up, she and two others will lead a group of 11 students from CSB and SJU on a spring break trip to the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas. There, the students – accompanied by CSB and SJU Outdoor Education Assistant Director Lucas Wade – will canoe, hike and explore a system of caves run by the National Forest Service.

The group was scheduled to depart Saturday (March 2) and return Thursday (March 7).

“We try to run trips like this over each break in the school year,” Wade said. “We’re hoping two things happen for those who take part.

“No. 1, they form connections with their fellow students and have the chance to meet people they might not get to know otherwise. No. 2, they develop outdoor skills that can transfer into other programs or situations they might encounter.”

Wade said students taking part pay a small fee, but financial support is available for those who might not have funding available.

“We want anyone who’s interested in coming along to be able to do so,” he said. “It kind of runs the gamut across the two campuses when it comes to the students who take part, though our leaders tend to be those who are pretty involved in Outdoor U already.”

That’s a group that includes Sitzman, who credits past trips with making her feel more at home as a trip leader.

“It’s such a cool thing to be able to come to college and have opportunities like this,” she said. “It’s helped build my leadership skills. In fact, on our next family trip to the Boundary Waters, I’m taking the lead.

“It’s just a great way to connect with people away from campus and build skills outside the classroom. In a way, you’re letting the world itself be your teacher.”

SJU Campus Ministry hosts service and immersion trips

Students from Outdoor U aren’t the only ones who will be traveling this coming week.

Other students from the CSB and SJU will travel to the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, Colorado and The Bahamas over spring break next week.

The trips are being organized by SJU Campus Ministry.

A group of 10, including SJU Campus Ministry Assistant Director Carter Howell, will travel to El Paso. Another group of 10 will journey to Colorado while a group of 14 will make the trip to The Bahamas.

Those students making the trips have spent the past four weeks in reflection groups in preparation for their work.

“It’s incredibly educational for students to have the chance to experience pilgrimages like these,” SJU Campus Ministry Director Margaret Nuzzolese Conway said. “To have a chance to live and work in a new place for an entire week engaging Benedictine values and Catholic social teaching. There’s so much that can be gained from that.”

Howell said the purpose of the trip is to continue building empathy for others.

“We try to center all of the service trips we take through the lens of where do we find Christ,” Howell said. “Each and every individual you encounter, regardless of their faith, background or political orientation, how do we see Christ in that person?”