As usual, students this semester will be able to venture into the Maine wilderness to go whitewater rafting, sea kayaking, rock climbing, telemark skiing and more. In addition to these Outing Club adventures, they will also be able to head out on gentler expeditions to focus on self-reflection and contemplation.
The Bowdoin Outing Club and Counseling Services have teamed up to offer a new series of wellness trips this year. After all, the specialties of the two centers — the public outdoors and our private interiors — mix easily, according to Bowdoin Outing Club Director Michael Woodruff.
“I think that the outdoors provides a wonderful venue for students to get off campus and reflect on their lives back at Bowdoin and beyond,” Woodruff said. “Anything we can do to help students operate at a higher level is important.”
This semester’s wellness trips will include a moonlit paddleboarding expedition, a reflective overnight stay at a cabin, a multicultural retreat in the mountains that incorporates meditation, and, potentially, mindful birding walks. The trips will be led by Bowdoin’s counselors, who will be joined by some of the outing club’s student trip leaders.
In the last two years, the Outing Club and Counseling Services have offered orientation trips for incoming first-year students based around activities such as yoga and meditation. The new wellness trips are designed to reach even more students, which is part of a bigger effort by Counseling Services to more widely offer its services. Organizing group activities in addition to providing one-on-one counseling helps achieve this. “Some things that can happen in groups are more powerful,” said Bernie Hershberger, director of Counseling Services. “People can feel that they’re not alone, that they can help others and that others can help them.”
Staff clinician Ali McGrath on Sept. 18 led a moonlit paddleboarding trip to Sewall Pond in Arrowsic. Her group will start by doing yoga at the water’s edge, and then set off for a silent paddle on the water. “Silence really enhances mindfulness,” McGrath said. Some students might also try doing yoga on the paddleboards, which are designed for stability. “Doing the corpse pose — lying on your back — is unbelievable,” she said. “You feel the waves gently underneath you and hear the noises of the waterfront.”
This coming weekend, Hershberger will lead an overnight trip for seniors to Bowdoin’s cabin. The first day will be devoted to “aimless wandering,” Hershberger said, “wandering by ourselves into different spaces around the cabin and lake to reflect on what makes you happy and what makes you feel really alive.” Later, students will sit around a campfire to share their thoughts. Hershberger said the exercise’s intention is to have students think about careers in a way that is less focused on discovering the perfect job and more about seeking deeper contentment. “If you were unimpeded, what would you do?” he said.
Senior Staff Clinician Shelley Roseboro will join an outing club trip for students of color and first-generation students later this fall. The students will stay at a Maine Huts & Trails cabin in Western Maine, where, among other activities, they’ll be able to go whitewater rafting and practice meditation with Roseboro.
And Staff Clinician Bobby Carnicella has plans to offer birding walks to students. He said birding is a fun way to have students practice sharpening their awareness of their surroundings. “Much of our experience is on autopilot,” he said. “Walking to and from class or work, sometimes we show up somewhere and don’t realize how we got there.”