Upon sharing that I would be spending the weekend at 48 Hours—a retreat that has been run by the Office of the First Year Experience for nearly three decades—many of my freshman peers replied that they had bravely outlasted the endless persuasion tactics to attend the trip that has been directed at our class from the day we selected Boston College.
Perhaps they had a point: broadcasts of 48 Hours had come in pamphlets, emails, presentations, and of course from our ever-perky orientation leaders throughout the summer and fall. As a result, students like me dutifully added our names to a retreat session. While I had little understanding of what would be occurring on the trip, I assumed that this was one of many experiences that BC freshmen were “supposed” to have.
On Friday, Oct. 13, approximately 120 freshmen boarded the buses that were to take us to Yarmouth, Mass., for some reflection on our first eight weeks of college. We were the first attendees from the class of 2019. As the bus pulled away from campus and the rapid bonding began, the unfamiliarity of this experience dawned on me.
After 12 years of public school, I had little knowledge of the happenings at these so-called “retreats” of which BC students seemed so fond. At the very least, I expected to enjoy a weekend at the Cape and perhaps meet a few other freshmen.
An annual tradition at the University for almost 30 years, 48 Hours began with a group of young campus ministers, including Rev. Tony Penna and Rev. Joe Marchese, who conceieved of and then inaugurated the retreat. While the program is no longer spiritually focused, its importance still stems from the act of students setting aside time to reflect on their experiences and process their meanings.
According to the Office of First Year Experience, the program has become incredibly popular over the past five years. It’s predicted that over half of the freshman class will attend one of these retreats this year.
The timing and location of the retreat sessions are purposeful: They do not begin until freshmen have a few weeks under their belt, allowing for some material understanding of what college is like, and they occur at a quiet location off campus to allow students to distance themselves physically and mentally from their school lives.
Each retreat session is headed by a different member of the staff, and Ali Bane, assistant director of program management within First Year Experience, led last weekend’s trip. Bane was up to the task of creating a weekend entertaining enough that we would come back and gush to our friends about it, while meaningful enough that we weren’t just on a resort vacation in the middle of October.
This balance was maintained perfectly, through structured talks and interjecting games and activities—and, of course, continuous snack breaks. In addition to Bane’s leadership, Jenna Sattar and Peter Kwiatek, both former Eagles working in the Office of Residential Life, were present, as well as Stephen Chu, an Admissions Counselor with a wealth of knowledge to share about change, adjustment, and perseverance.
Perhaps the most important members of the 48 Hours crew were the 10 senior leaders and the five sophomore “point-guards” who volunteered their weekends to share their incredible metamorphoses from terrified, confused first-year students into capable, and truly admirable, students and people. Personal and vulnerable stories about social pressures, self-confidence, building friendships and relationships, and finding success in academics were offered without shame or embarrassment.
The trip allowed not only for small group communities to develop, but also for participants to meet almost everyone else on the trip during meals or activities dispersed throughout the day.
Forty-eight hours after departing on my first retreat, I finally understood why I had been urged by upperclassmen and faculty alike to take part in the mysterious and heavily lauded First Year Experience retreat offered to freshmen.
In fact, I had been so convinced of its relevance that I became a new source of self-directed advertisement for the retreat. I immediately began reaching out to friends and peers insisting that they sign up for one of the three remaining weekends of the trip offered in November and February.
My reasoning was simple: free food, beach-scene Instagrams, and an opportunity unlike any other to connect with others about the challenges and rewards of becoming a BC student.
Featured Image courtesy of Ali Bane