Quo Vadis a bright spot in sophomore year

A whirlwind 24 hours, the Quo Vadis Sophomore Retreat was a time of reflection, reconsideration and relief. Students had the chance to consider how our past experiences have shaped us thus far, to rethink our choice of major and career goals and to realize it is perfectly okay to not know what direction we , as students, are headed in at all. With the retreat’s ambitious schedule, Quo Vadis offered attendees opportunities to connect with peers, alumni, professors and people from the Piper Center. Quo Vadis provided sophomores a space where we could openly express our worries about the present and the future, such as not knowing what to major in or whether or not we should attend graduate school right after college.

Upon receiving the initial email regarding the retreat, I thought the agenda would be nearly impossible to complete in such a short amount of time. Though it was quite ambitious, Quo Vadis covered all of its bases, giving sessions on topics such as “Knowing Who You Are,” “Redefining Success” and “Vocational Journey and Find What’s Next.” Two faculty members spoke on how they made important life decisions and how setbacks and failures affected their lives. Former St. Olaf students addressed questions on how they used their college education and experiences to find careers and opportunities after graduation. Students were also broken up into small groups and given time to reflect on the panels, responding to things we related to or found interesting and exciting.

Personally, I was mentally exhausted by the end of the retreat, but thought the scope of topics covered were all necessary. While cramming everything into 24 hours was taxing, I did appreciate that the Piper Center recognized that students didn’t have the time to attend a retreat that took up the entire weekend.

In the student manual given to attendees, a rationale was given for the reasoning behind making the trip only for sophomores: “St. Olaf initiated the retreat in 2011 to encourage personal reflection, vocational discernment, and leadership development in the sophomore year – a time in which many students are forming a stronger sense of identity and making important decisions about their majors, relationships, values, career interests, and co-curricular involvement.”

I agree with this statement in that the second year of college is when students have finally settled into a routine and are faced with the important task of declaring a major, which inevitably leads to thinking about life after graduation. While all class years could benefit from a similar retreat, the Piper Center’s rationale behind making the retreat exclusively for sophomores made sense to me. At this point in my education, I find all guidance and wisdom from professors, alumni and current students to be greatly appreciated.

Though 85 students is only a small portion of current sophomores, the retreat would have been much more overwhelming if more people had attended. I’m also unsure the venue, Camp Iduhapi, would have been able to hold many more students. The camp was a lovely place to hold the retreat, but with 85 students, plus group leaders and Piper Center employees, it was certainly crowded enough. The Piper Center also did send out a couple of follow-up emails concerning open spots leading up to the retreat, which led me to believe that they hadn’t had to reject people due to a lack of space (though I can’t attest to previous Quo Vadis retreats). If there was enough interest, I could see the Piper Center hosting two weekend retreats per semester, giving more sophomores the chance to attend.

Named for a Latin phrase meaning “Where are you going?,” Quo Vadis was helpful in giving sophomores the tools to explore the future ahead. Not only did students get to talk to people who had already been through college, graduate school and beginning their careers in the workforce, we also had the opportunity to connect with peers and discover that they too were struggling over which major to choose and what jobs they might have in the future. At the end of the retreat, I had come to the realization that it is okay if I don’t know exactly where I am headed; there is still time to figure out what to do and where I am going.

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