Students at West Virginia University can combine travel with personal development as the new Adventure WV Program will include experiential education and leadership experience.
“We foster ‘belongingness,’ and that is huge,” said Adventure WV Program Manager Marcedes Minana. “We really are a family.”
Adventure WV began as a freshman orientation program and has since come to offer everything from local trips to study-abroad programs.
Incoming freshmen have the opportunity to take an orientation trip: a week-long camping excursion throughout West Virginia. The trip is linked with a course, and major-specific trips are offered for students in the School of Journalism and the College of Business and Economics.
An Adventure Program and a Learning Opportunity
According to Minana, the trips aren’t just about fun and adventure.
“It’s about learning about the University, learning about this state, because this is your home,” she said. “This is your back yard.”
Minana said that a common problem for freshmen at WVU is having no friends or mentors.
“For most incoming students, one of the biggest concerns coming into college is ‘am I going to make friends? Am I going to fit in?’” she said.
The Orientation Trips bring these students together and help them connect, Minana said.
“The sleeping in tents, day hikes, rock climbing, backpacking, building Habitat for Humanity houses – those are the tools we use to produce ‘belongingness,’” she said.
Apart from the orientation programs, Adventure WV offers between three and four study-abroad trips per year.
Snorkeling in Fiji, kayaking in the pristine lakes of Patagonia, exploring MachuPicchu in Peru, and backpacking through the mountains of New Zealand are the travel options students can experience, all while earning college credit.
Students learn about ecotourism, history, sustainable development and back-country living.
Erin Irwin, a sophomore journalism student, attended the School of Journalism Orientation Trip through Adventure WV. She says she not only made friends but also acquired some professional contacts.
“It was a networking tool, and I got to meet a lot of my professors,” she said. “I wouldn’t have gotten an internship if it wasn’t for the trip.”
Robert Riddle, an animal and nutritional sciences student, has gone from being a freshman on an orientation trip to a student leader.
“You get to engage yourself with people in an environment without cellphones or technology, which really lets you rely on each other,” he said. “I wanted to go back and be able to give incoming freshmen the same opportunities.”