The outdoors and I have never really gotten along and, by mutual agreement, for the past 18 years we’ve kept a reasonable distance from each other. To this end, I’ve never been camping once in my life. I’d never slept in a cabin before, I’d never done a lot of stereotypical camp things, but I’d never thought that I was missing out on too much. That all changed this past weekend (9/23-9/25) when I participated in Lehigh’s annual Great Pocono Escape, and boy it sure did change.
I first heard about GPE, and I feel this is the way most people hear about it (if at all), was last year, when my friends went to Camp Hawk (which is a part of GPE). Basically, if a club/organization goes to GPE, it’s a space for them to connect with other clubs on campus, have time for team building, plan for the semester, or anything else they want to accomplish at this retreat. Some examples of organizations that went include Indian Students Association, The Happiness Collective, and Student Senate. As an exec board member of Spectrum (co-Vice President to be exact), I had helped decide to go to GPE months ago, and I was equal parts nervous and excited.
So I staggered my way to Alumni Memorial to meet the buses in the heat (with way too many bags on me), and then somehow managed to stake a claim to an entire bus seat for myself. By the end of my 90-minute nap we had made it to Camp Canadensis! We were greeted by the smell of delicious food and a beautiful view of the lake, and then we all noisily escaped the bus to put our things away. The cabin was quite large, with a bathroom with shower stalls, but no heating at all. I took the top bunk in a bunk bed (another first for me!) and managed to get some sheets on it after a bit of a struggle.
And then the real work began! The little room we had to ourselves was adorable (and full of snacks) and we hashed out our mission and our vision, as well as a short little skit to introduce ourselves to the other groups.
After that, we had a little ‘Fireside Chat’ with President Simon and Vice Provost Farrell, with the topic of the campus climate. Which we didn’t talk about at all. Suffice it to say that I was quite disappointed by the direction the talk went, with a lot of generalizations about Greek life, a prevalent us vs. them attitude, etc. I wish I had spoken up and helped steer the conversation in a different direction, but it was a learning experience either way. After this discussion, a bunch of groups showed off their amazing skits.
And then, our group stayed behind in our room for over three hours and took some time to talk to each other and really bond. We talked about everything, from coming out stories to relationships to life in general, all while being terrorized from outside by a skunk and the fattest, meanest raccoon I have seen in my life.
When we woke up the next morning, it was to a very unpleasant surprise: the temperature had dropped and now it was freezing cold. On top of that, when I went to take my morning shower, there was no warm water. After an in-depth session on MBTI personality types in the morning (INFP represent!), we got a large chunk of free time after lunch. I took advantage of this time to try kayaking for the first time out on the lake! I had a blast and didn’t even fall into the water once, though I did have a close call where our class’ very own Jasmine almost tipped me into the water, getting my pants completely soaked.
After a quick change of pants, it was time to get down to business and plan out our semester. I was honestly surprised at how productive we were! I didn’t know that it was possible for anyone to get so much done in two hours. Not only did we plan out the entire semester week by week, we also designed a new mascot/logo and started planning for the upcoming spring semester as well. It was amazing to see that we could still get things done while eating lots of snacks, hanging out on the floor with no shoes on, and occasionally getting distracted by a silly joke or some such.
Once it got dark, we had a proper campfire, roasted marshmallows, ate s’mores, and watched the stars.
It was a great way to wrap up the weekend. The next morning, we did some debriefing before heading back on the buses to Lehigh!
GPE was amazing. GPE changed my life. I really learned so much about myself, about my friends, and got a lot of work done on top of that. The organizers of GPE could definitely reach out to more organizations, though I understand that they have limitations on how many people can come to Camp Canadensis. What should you do? Consider GPE for your own organization and follow Spectrum on our social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter) to keep up with our awesome events!
A little bonus: