Next month, when most of their classmates are heading home for spring break, up to 50 sophomores from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., will spend a weekend in the North Woods, contemplating their futures.
For the first time, the college is hosting a three-day retreat for second-year students at its famous summer camp, Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji. Officials are so eager for students to sign up for the “Knowing U: Sophomore Retreat” that they’re offering the entire program for just $40, including food, transportation and lodging in a heated cabin.
The idea is to encourage the students to do some soul-searching at a pivotal point in their college careers, when they’re about to declare a major, says Chelle Lyons Hanson, one of the planners, who is director of student leadership and service.
“Frankly, part of it is to help manage some of the pressure they feel,” she said. People are always asking what they plan to do after college, “and it’s all about how you’re going to make a living,” she said. “We also want them to be driven about how they’re going to make a life.”
Among other things, the students will get a chance to do “guided meditation” and wander the 800-acre campus, with its miles of walking and hiking paths, not to mention the Finnish sauna. They’ll also meet in small and large group sessions, to draw them out on topics they rarely have time for in school — such as “how they want to find deeper purpose and meaning,” associate dean Lisa Sethre-Hofstad said.
So far, fewer than 10 students have signed up, but officials hope that will change as word spreads. “Students have been asking a lot of questions: What is this? Who’s going?” Sethre-Hofstad said. The planners briefly considered banning smartphones at the retreat — but quickly had second thoughts.
“[It’s] like asking them to leave their right arm at home,” Lyons Hanson said.
The goal, though, is to get them to put the electronics aside long enough to “fully engage in the moment,” she said.