“The squish of mud.
The spray of water on your face as you paddle.
The weight of the canoe on your shoulders – your amphibious adventure vehicle.
Cool morning mist.
The water warmer than air.
Cold damp socks.
The hum of the wild as you drift off to sleep.
The brightest stars.”
Saint Norbert College students recently completed the first leg of their Gap Experience Adventure. At St. Norbert, first year students can apply to start their undergraduate career with a grand adventure:
It’s not for the half-hearted: The Gap Experience is a rigorous academic, service and adventure program intended to forge leaders and change lives. It requires all-in commitment.
And it’s not for the cold-hearted: Gap students spend a large part of the semester compassionately engaging with issues facing our world today.
And it certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted: This first-semester program involves scaling mountains … canoeing crystalline lakes … hiking volcanoes … encountering the wilderness.
Sounds like Outward Bound!
For good reason: The Saint Norbert Gap Experience is Outward Bound.
SNC students launch their Adventure with 25 days in the Boundary Waters with Voyageur Outward Bound School.
Challenging, scenic, rainy, sunny, wet, cozy, exhausting, energizing, ironically stylish, forming, norming, building, packing, transitional, thought-provoking, steep, heavy, rewarding, muddy, slippery, hilarious, and… EXPEDITIONARY– 2017 Gap Experience Blog
This is a massive “tone set” for a semester of experiential, empathic learning. VOBS immerses students in nature-based challenge and group learning to grow compassion, empathy and confidence. The ethic of “service above self” informs on course responsibility and peer leadership. Outward Bound values– Compassion, Excellence, Integrity & Inclusion– dovetail with the Norbertine mission of cultivating “communio” through intellectual, spiritual and personal development. Pushed to the edge of their comfort zones, students work together, growing confidence through striving, sometimes failing, and succeeding. Together, they master new skills, take risks, reflect on learning and set ambitious goals. 25 days of rigor and responsibility. Great preparation for the rest of their Adventure, and a new skill set for their academic career.
Diana Delbecchi, new Assistant Director for the Gap Experience, joined this year’s Gap Adventure Leadership Expedition. This was Diana’s first Outward Bound course, and her firsthand experience afforded valuable insight into the student experience:
“Voyager Outward Bound School provided our students a real opportunity to practice their leadership skills. It is their purposeful design around being uncomfortable and teaching students the value in stepping outside comfort zones that allows for leadership to be fostered…through evening meetings, taking ownerships and showing appreciations, our students are able to practice being vulnerable, respectful and honest with one another and, in return, this promotes a sense of community that will be immensely important as they continue to figure out their own place in the wider community and learn more about their role within it.”
The impact of this experience is evident in student word and deed. I had the good fortune to sit in on the SNC Expedition Graduation up at Homeplace. It was a humbling experience. These students accomplished something few have: 25 days of adventure and self-discovery in the wilderness. These students now speak with clarity, from the heart. They listen intently to one another. They hold your eye with a steady, curious gaze. They laugh, hug and cry freely. They are willing to be vulnerable. They reflect on their learning with candor, and they set ambitious goals for themselves, and for each other.
The last ten days of canoeing were tougher than the first five of backpacking but with the miles on our boots we knew we could take them on. We did not just survive – we thrived, bonded and overcame challenges we didn’t know existed in a place that most had never imagined. –2017 Gap Experience Blog
Join the Adventure! Follow the 2017 Gap Experience Blog.
Special thanks to Laura Fredrickson, Gap Experience Director. Laura and the Gap Team’s vision, grit and fortitude make collaboration and innovation an Adventure. Together, we are crew, not passengers!