High Country Experience Series continues with six exciting new excursions

For the last few semesters, the Lees-McRae High Country Experience Series has been taking students on fun and exciting excursions off campus to introduce them to life in the mountains. For the 2023−24 academic year the series continued with five exciting new outings that gave our students valuable experiences to push themselves, form new bonds with their peers, and have once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

The Fall 2023 semester kicked off with three new excursions: white water rafting on the Watauga River, exploring Worley’s Cave, and a UTV tour of Roan Mountain. This spring the excursions continued with ziplining and indoor airsoft adventures.

According to students who were involved in this year’s series, one of the most valuable aspects of participating in the excursions is having the opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and meet peers from other academic programs who you may not interact with otherwise. Freshman Pre-Veterinary Medicine major Noah Swank and senior Biology major Mackenzie Cunningham both attended three of the High Country Experience Series excursions throughout this academic year, and both said the experience pushed their boundaries and made them more confident in their abilities to try new things.

“I first heard about it on orientation day last summer, and I was like, ‘Oh, that sounds interesting.’ After doing the UTV tour I realized that these are really good to do because it doesn’t cost me anything, it’s an all-day excursion, and it’s really fun,” Swank said. “I definitely get more acquainted with the area because I’m not from around hereI’m from Fredericksburg, Virginia. I also learn more about the people that I go with, because we are all very friendly with each other on the trips. It’s definitely a way to learn more about people.”

Swank described himself as an “extroverted introvert,” and said that the small group setting of the excursions was a great way for him to meet new people and push himself to try a new activity on the weekend without overextending himself socially. He attended the UTV tour of Roan Mountain, the ziplining trip, and the indoor airsoft experience, but said the UTV tour was his favorite of the three.

Cunningham attended the Worley’s Cave exploration, the ziplining trip, and the airsoft experience. While she said the caving exploration was her favorite of the three, each excursion stretched her boundaries and taught her a bit more about what she was capable of.

“It’s always beneficial to have an experience in something new even if you’re terrified of it, or you’re unsure, or you have no clue what it even is. I didn’t know all that caving entailed, I didn’t know what supplies I needed or what clothes to wear, but going out and gaining these experiences and trying new things for the first time sets you up with new skills,” Cunningham said. “It also gives you a boost of confidence that if you can try one new thing you can do it again. It’s beneficial to try new things and gain as many experiences as possible, because this is one of your only opportunities to do this without really paying for it.”

Cunningham explained that college is all about gaining new experiences and trying new things to learn more about yourself. This is an important lesson both in the classroom, in discovering your preferred academic pursuits, and outside of the classroom with the activities and hobbies you use to fill your free time. She said the High Country Experience Series, and having strong Student Life programming in general, is important in allowing students to make those personal discoveries.

“It helps people get out of their comfort zone both physically with the activities they dowhether it’s something as simple as painting a pot or going cavingbut it’s also an opportunity to meet people you don’t normally interact with on campus,” Cunningham said. “It’s a great way to meet people and practice communication.”

While another year of the High Country Experience Series has ended, a new semester of adventures and excursions is right around the corner. Look out for an email in the Fall 2024 semester to sign up for the next round of adventures in and around our mountain home.

By Maya JarrellApril 24, 2024
Campus Life