Jenna Smith – STAFF WRITER
START is a retreat offered through Assumption’s Campus Ministry office and something many of my friends had previously attended and urged me to consider. After being asked by multiple people if I was going to go through with it (and being sent the link to the application) I decided to just go for it and sign up. I dropped off the $35 and then waited for the weekend to come.
I did not know what to expect from this experience. I have heard amazing things about it from my friends, but I had my reservations and fears about what would happen throughout the twenty-four hours I was away from campus and unplugged from the world. Could I really go that long without my phone? What if there was an emergency? Do I want to miss the opportunities of being with my friends on campus? Questions and concerns continued to race through my mind as the week approached and especially on the Friday of the retreat. I had multiple midterms and an essay due throughout the week, so I had basically moved into the library and Friday was the first time I had a break and was not consumed by stress and anxiety about approaching exams. But it seemed as though that was when the stress hit me most. I felt like everything that could have gone wrong on Friday, did. My favorite piece of jewelry broke, my coffee got locked in a car and my classes were confusing and stressful – all I wanted to do was lay in bed, eat ice cream and sleep through the night.
I had gotten back to my room after my last class of the day to grab my bag, pillow and sleeping bag and head down to check in. But, when I walked into my room, I completely broke down. I could not stop crying and I could not figure out “why” I was even crying; I did not want to be off campus. My roommate drove me down to check in anyways and I did my best to compose myself before facing people I did not really know with the anticipation of having to tell these people things that were maybe extremely personal to me. One of my friends was a team leader and checking people in and asked what was wrong. I explained what had happened to me mere minutes before checking in and all he told me was: “START happens when you need it most.” I nodded my head, but all I could think was “Yeah, sure it does. Is it tomorrow yet?” He was right. I was wrong. I am happy to admit that I was extremely wrong.
I was in a mood and slightly cynical, so when our bus arrived and I saw all of the team leaders running around, jumping and screaming, all I was asking myself was: “What did I get myself into?” We were told to quickly throw our things in rooms and then get over to the other area so that we could begin the night activities. There were some fun icebreakers to introduce ourselves and get to know each other a little better and then we got down into business. I felt like everyone around me was enjoying themselves more than I was; getting more out of the experience than me. There were multiple talks and small and large group activities throughout the night but I was getting so tired that all I was hoping for was my bed. Dinner was delicious though, and I got to know more about my small group during that time. I was trying to open up my mind to the experience more, but I really just wanted to sleep. I tried harder the next day.
Day two. After feeling like the night was not long enough and still having reservations about what was going to happen throughout the day, I grabbed a cup of coffee, ate a yummy breakfast and proceeded to the activities. There had been good points throughout the night before where I genuinely laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes, so I took that attitude and applied it to this new day. I listened better and reflected more. I held nothing back. I let myself be brutally honest with those around me and myself. I truly pondered my faith and how it applied to and affected my life. I laughed, I cried tears of sadness and joy and I learned so much about the people around me that I would have never known or assumed having not gone on this retreat. It was everything I needed without knowing that I needed it. Friday night was tough, and Saturday was beautiful. I felt free. I felt connected to those around me. I felt that I understood my faith more. For the first time in years, my heart felt at peace with itself, and my mind was silent and open.
START is not only for those who, like me, are growing in their faith. It is also for people who question what they believe, or do not believe at all. It was an experience that introduced me to a wide range of people that I may have never seen or known otherwise but am now beyond blessed to get to know better. It gave me the chance to see how I affect people and how they affect me. To put it simply, I was awarded the opportunity to hear opinions and stories that differ from mine and learn how there were a lot of things I could take away from strangers. START offers a wide variety of entertainment, conversation, reflection and love that I have never before encountered in my life. I would recommend it to anyone at any point in his or her life at college. It came at the exact moment it needed to for me, I hope that others are able to get that same chance.
Another START retreat is being held in the spring semester March 22-23, 2019. Do not miss this opportunity. What happens during those twenty-four hours unplugged from the world are some of the funniest, most moving and most beautiful memories that will last a lifetime. A huge thank you to the rectors, Will Armstrong and Hannah Avard, the entire team, and Stephanie McCaffrey for putting together such a wonderful weekend – I am eternally grateful to and for you all. #HappyDanceForever
Jenna Smith, a junior, studies History and Political Science. She is a staff writer for Le Provocateur.