Staycation: First-year retreat stays close to home

Written by: SEAN WALULIK, guest writer
Photo courtesy of Sabrina Moran
Junior Get-Away Retreat leader Sabrina Moran, fourth from the right,
poses on a HUB balcony for a picture with members of her small group.

This past weekend, the Center for Faith and Justice (CFJ) hosted 53 first-year students at the annual GetAway Retreat. 

The CFJ adapted this Xavier tradition to adhere to the social distancing policies set by the university.  

While the retreat would normally take place at an off-campus location overnight, an adjustment was required to adhere to social distancing guidelines. 

The CFJ was passionate about ensuring that the retreat continued in spite of the current pandemic, given that opportunities for first-years to socialize are particularly limited,coupled with increasing anxiety to maintain good health. 

Spencer Liechty, faith and justice coordinator for the CFJ, was the person responsible for putting on the event. “We felt like this was a really important experience to try to have even in an adapted way, in order to provide those spaces where first-years are coming together and giving them the potential to meet other people and see new faces,” Liechty said. 

This year, the retreat took place over the course of a single day and stayed on campus.  Participants took advantage of the opportune weather to spend the day largely outside in small groups, while making sure to remain socially distanced. 

The retreat aimed to promote well-being for students by giving first-year students the opportunity to take a step back from their rigorous coursework and the hectic nature of college life. 

“It is a good time to focus on reflection and fun and step away from homework and classes and studying,” retreat leader Sabrina Moran said, “Now that students have a bit of their footing at Xavier, they can spend time forming a community, reflecting on their values and setting goals.”

Despite the seemingly insurmountable barriers of hosting a retreat amidst a global pandemic, GetAway still managed to be overwhelmingly successful. 

“This year, the focus was mainly having the first-years making connections as it has been hard for them to make friends with COVID-19 restrictions,” Moran explained in response to how the pandemic affected the goal of the retreat.

Junior Alex Feller, another retreat leader, said, “While many of the activities had to be adjusted, the overall feel and energy of GetAway persisted. GetAway was effective in helping these new students towards finding their place on campus.” 

Looking forward, Liechty noted that the CFJ is looking to host another retreat in the spring semester. 

They hope to have a more typical retreat and to provide an opportunity to participate for those who were not able to attend due to health reasons. 

Despite the hope for normalcy in the future, the pandemic has changed the way the CFJ will approach the GetAway retreat in the future. 

“Being on campus reduces a lot of the barriers that people may feel about having to go somewhere else overnight,” Liechty explained. “I think that maybe we can look at providing both the off-campus experience and something that’s just for a day on campus if people are interested in that.”

The CFJ hosts many student events throughout the year, the details for which can be found online.