Orientation experiences shared by students
Each fall, nearly two hundred new Prescott College students find themselves in “the classroom,” the breathtaking, sometimes raw, always diverse terrains and environments of the Southwest. New Prescott students are introduced to the natural environment of the southwest, learn about themselves and each other and experience the educational philosophies of Prescott College during Orientation, the most revered of the College’s traditions, thus beginning the journey of developing the relationships with their new home, community and academic career.
Read about student's life changing adventures.
Participating in yoga orientation has been one of my favorite experiences at Prescott College. During the course of those three weeks at Walnut Creek, I learned an immense amount about myself, yogic traditions and philosophies, awareness and the land of Arizona. Every night we slept around a campfire, making what some call a dream circle. Falling asleep to people telling stories and singing campfire songs still remains one of my favorite memories. We woke up in the morning to the sunrise and made our way over to a clearing where we had designated as our space to practice yoga. There, we would undertake between 1-3 hours of yoga. After that we would continue on with our day. Depending on the day, we would take 8 mile day hikes, go on quests for petroglyphs, make prayer flags for our “yoga area”, work on the sweat lodge that we made for our community service project, have group conversations about yogic philosophy based on the assigned book, eat yummy food, have afternoon yoga sessions, have rest time, as well as time to work on our presentations. We did a lot of the same activities that wilderness orientation does, like the presentations, the community service project, solos and group bonding, we were just based camped for most of the trip. Still sleeping and going to the bathroom outside, still cooking meals in groups, having resupply and still getting plenty of physical activity in. I actually felt like I was in the best shape of my life after orientation (at least 4 hours of yoga everyday will do that to you) yoga is great for anyone’s body and spirit. We also took a four day backpacking trip. One of the best qualities of Prescott College, in my opinion is our unique approach to orientation, my experience with orientation changed my life, and if I could do it over I would choose to do yoga orientation in a heartbeat!
~Amanda Hampton, May 2011
Daniel Roca Wilderness Orientation
A Big Decision on the Horizon
Something I’ve learned since I’ve come to Prescott College: Life doesn’t always wait for you to be ready when it decides to send you somewhere new. It’s a strange moment--the one you feel coming upon you when there is a big decision on the horizon. And it’s something that has continued to creep up through my veins ever since I entered Prescott College.
...But I knew this already. I knew the difficulty was always going to come. I knew it the moment I opened up the Prescott College catalog and decided to come to this school. I knew it when I met my fellow students and the faculty during the first few days of Orientation. I knew it when I peeked my crusty eyes out of the tent flap that morning. This was a place that would challenge my inner most beliefs in myself. It was a place that would form me and change me and mold me into whomever I chose to be. It would ask me to prove myself and find myself time and time again. And it always reminded me that I was at Prescott College not just to get an education, but to gain an understanding about what I want my future to become, and what role I want to play in it.
~Daniel Roca, 02.17.2012
Three weeks are irrelevant. The time I spent on orientation took on a context greater than the month of September. It felt oddly like a lifetime, as if, during the time, I grew from infant to old man, and at the end flew up toward the sun. Suddenly, there was pavement. Traffic mumbled down the road. I was back, and it was difficult suddenly to comprehend what I had just done. Now, a week after returning to greater humanity, I feel prepared to explain my experience of Prescott College Wilderness Orientation.
We began in Prescott. All the orientation students sat in a big circle and were told to close their eyes. An inspiring speech was given as, unbeknownst to us, all of the orientation instructors and course directors changed into, in some cases horrifically undersized, cutoff denim shorts. Using flame shaped pieces of paper with our names and a cryptic code (CB2 in my case), we found our “destinies,” our orientation groups. These people we’d be learning the intimate secrets and gastric patterns of for the next twenty-one days.
The following day, we piled into Prescott College vans, one for each group, and were shuttled up a mountain on a very bumpy road. We built a trail all together in the morning, ate lunch in our groups afterward, and were off to a YMCA summer camp not too far from Prescott. Here, at Chauncey Ranch, we spent two nights. This is where we started to get to know each other. Our first hike was here. We had our first written reflection here and coordinated our own group rules. We sorted the food we’d purchased together back in Prescott and assigned group gear to each other. Our packs, at this point, were frightfully cumbersome.
You're on the wrong BUS!
On a fateful morning we loaded our packs into the bed of a pickup and climbed the stairs of the charter bus that was to take us to our temporary home in the wilderness. Except it was the wrong bus. “Stump’s group? You’re on the other bus.” This event really set the tone for our journey: hilarious and less-than-tragic missteps. Despite the miles of extra hiking and food made inedible with Dr. Bronner’s, the comic relief was like a friendly poltergeist that never left us.
Sleeping under the Stars
Our first night we slept on a gorgeous red sandstone boulder at the edge of West Clear Creek, in the canyon so named. We jumped off into the deep, clear water and were like celebrating nymphs. Everyone smiled. It was good. On this first night, I had a long talk with the exquisitely big sister-like Iris Cushing, Shane Stump’s counterpart facilitating our journey. I was a bit overwhelmed and didn’t think I could sleep outside; I’d never slept in anything less substantial than a tent in my life. With a gentle voice and reassuring hand on my back, I was absolved of my fears and spent the night staring up into the brilliant star-filled sky the likes of which I rarely, if ever, had seen before.
The skies above our journey were equal in proportion to the rocks, water, and forest we hiked through. The skies were at times full of radiant, intense sunlight, crystal blue skies without a single cloud. They were malevolent grey curtains offering downpours and lightening prisons. They were intense sunrise and sunset, full of colors like autumn leaves and sherbet. They were the open universe, with shooting stars, constellations, and the great Milky Way looming at the furthest reaches of human vision.
Along our journey, we ate sweet sour canyon grapes. We climbed down waterfalls with ropes around waist. We drank water from puddles. We ate the greatest honeydew ever beset mankind. Sometimes we walked down national forest roads while the cows stared at us and followed, intrigued. Other times I wished I had a machete to make my way through such thick vegetation I had never imagined grew in the dry Southwest. We negotiated around cacti. We climbed 1600 feet in one day. Through much difficulty, and much doubt, we made it to our destination. However, when you’re hiking in a large horseshoe shaped path, not really traveling, just backpacking, there really is no destination. I think orientation, by its very circuitousness, exemplifies well the ethos of Prescott College: education is a journey.
~Estin Vogel, 09.29.2011
Tony "Morgoth" Gamboa
Feed the excitement!
Nervousness and excitement sometimes feel very similar; so I say “feed the excitement and starve the nervousness!” I was so extremely stoked to be going on orientation that it was impossible to feel anything but excitement personally.
Before orientation I had only been backpacking once and that was for only a three day hike so the entire experience felt familiar but still very new. The funny thing about orientation was that it was nothing like I expected. It is pretty much as they describe it to students, but nothing actually prepares you for being on orientation until you are out in the field!
Granted it was nothing like I expected, but everything I needed to learn and grow. Most people you talk to you will say orientation is a life changing experience and I would agree with them. One of the big moments though (that is fun to share) was during solo; this was where for the first time in my life I felt the ever present OM and heard the voice of planet!
There is this cool sense of confidence and comfort that students bring back with them from orientation (this will make sense once someone goes through orientation). But all I can say about orientation for sure is this: “expect nothing embrace everything”, and bring Nutella!
Tony “Morgoth” Gamboa, fall 2011
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