By Megan Bevins | Staff Writer
When Savanna Soucier, a WVU Senior in Recreation, Parks and Tourism Resources, was presented the opportunity to mentor her peers and help them adjust to college, she decided it was something she wanted to take on.
“I just felt like that would be really gratifying and really rewarding, and it turns
out it was,” Soucier said.
The warm and welcoming environment Soucier experienced once beginning
the role was a huge help in overcoming nerves and adjusting to the job.
Adventure WV’s First-Year Trips have long been a fruitful opportunity for incoming
WVU freshmen to connect with the university and their fellow classmates through
exploring the great outdoors. This is largely due to their student leaders — the
ones guiding those new freshmen every step of the way to ensure they take away
all that they can from the experience.
As a trip leader, a big part of Soucier’s job is navigating her own life as a WVU student while helping freshmen do the same. That relatability is what makes the student-led aspect of First-Year Trips such a special and important part of the experience.
“I believe that it allows the freshman to develop in ways that they wouldn't otherwise,” she said. “When other peers — whether they've been in college one year or three years — take incoming freshmen out on these trips, they provide practical real world experience that is just valuable to hear when you're going into college.”
Soucier explains that the trips being peer-led allows for better bonding between
freshman and leader, as the leader understands not only what freshmen are going
through as students but as people in the same stage of life — young college kids
just trying to succeed.
Another important aspect of this relationship, she said, are the conversations that freshmen can have with their leader that perhaps they can’t have with their parents or older mentors.
Although First-Year Trips are focused on the incoming freshmen, having fun and making
memories through First-Year trips isn’t reserved just for them.
Life-long memories are present for both freshmen and leaders, traveling the state
and bonding through new activities. Though long, sometimes tiring days are somewhat
inevitable for trip leaders, those experiences and the impact they have on her
and these students is Soucier’s main motivator.
Soucier feels that nights with little sleep are worth making such a big impact on
so many lives.
“It doesn't matter how many hours of sleep you miss at the end of the day, it's about the connections and it's about the growth that you get to witness.” Savanna Soucier
Adventure WV is now preparing to bring in a new group of First-Year Trip leaders for next summer.
Soucier offers some advice and words of encouragement for new leaders
and students thinking about signing up for the job. She encourages leaders to begin
by being themselves.
Soucier adds that the team plays a unique and impactful role in the operation of
the trips, and if leaders are authentically themselves from the get go, it will
make the Adventure community that much stronger.
For any students who want to sign up but are nervous about taking on the role, Soucier
encourages you to take the leap and go for it.
While Soucier’s position as a First-Year Trip leader requires a lot of hard work,
it comes with so many great experiences and high reward for everyone involved.
“Even the anxiety surrounding that of maybe not having much leadership experience
or not feeling that you're equipped for the role are issues that I found to be
fully and entirely mitigated through the course that was taken before you become
a trip leader,” Soucier said.
The course she is referring to is Leadership in Experiential Education (RPTR 251),
which all trip leaders are required to take this as part of their job training.
To all her fellow First-Year Trip leaders, Soucier says, “You’ve got this!”