One of the best things about coming to college is meeting so many different people that have so many different views because they come from so many different backgrounds. So many. And what is better in accomplishing this than weekend after weekend filled with retreats of close-knit groups of friends going into the outdoors to bond together!

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The first of many retreats.

The first retreat that I went on this year – for SCOutfitters, an outdoors adventure club – was different than any of the ones I ever went on before. This was the first retreat that I was in charge of planning and organizing myself. Imagine planning out 72 hours in the wilderness full of things to do that will bring a group of 25 outdoors fanatics closer together. Imagine that they are your peers and, to some degree, know more about the wilderness than you do. Welcome – I hope you like the walk you’re taking in my shoes (or hiking boots).

Last year's retreat - to the highest point in Southern California. How could you surpass that?

One key thing to keep in mind is that every one of the 25 members of SCOutfitters is really friendly and tremendously easy to get along with. This makes things so much easier when unplanned things happen. So

Lesson Learned #1: Don’t freak out when things don’t go according to plan. They usually don’t. And still,

Best advice in college. Keep it in mind, especially during the most stressful of times.

After planning a retreat, you have a different outlook on any of the following retreats. You have a clearer sense of the purpose of the retreat. Imagine going back to middle school or elementary school and repeating a year there. You would know exactly what the teachers are looking for, and would think of the tasks as the simplest things ever. Oh, the days were simple back then…

Then and Now.

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Retreat #2. Can you read the hidden message in white?

The second retreat of the month was with Delta Omicron Zeta, USC’s Premier Leadership Fraternity. It’s incredible how close one can get to fellow classmates within a 12-hour time span. I have never experienced such camaraderie in high school, because we were never given an opportunity with classmates we barely knew to pitch a tent in the middle of nowhere, build a campfire, and let the bonding experiences begin.

Lesson Learned #2: You can have the best times of your life with only the smallest of necessities, as long as you are in good company.

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The third retreat (because all good things come in threes, right?) was with the course that every student who wants to become a Residential Advisor has to complete. Since it was organized by the university, it was the most well-planned of the three trips. After this weekend, I discovered that there is a third category that one can be exhausted in, beyond just physical and mental exhaustion. I felt completely emotionally exhausted for the following week, unable to comprehend the diverse backgrounds and immensely difficult situations that the classmates I see almost every day have to go through in order to attend USC. My respect for total strangers has skyrocketed.

Lesson Learned #3: Do not ASSUME. Anything. Question everything that you know about the world.

'Nuf said.

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Finally, retreat season has ended, right in time for midterm season to begin. I’ll let you know soon enough how it is on the other side of the first midterms of the semester.