Fun at first year retreat
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Forest Home Ojai Valley hosted 110 first-year students, 1 transfer, and 30 student mentors and staff last weekend for the First-Year Retreat, a weekend event to foster community for Westmont’s newest students.
The keynote speaker for the weekend was Kelly Soifer, who has been in youth ministry for most of her adult life. This was Soifer’s third year speaking at the retreat.
This weekend she spoke on the question: “How do you share your life with somebody?”
“You can’t share your life with somebody if you don’t think your life is worth sharing,” said Soifer.
Drawing from the movie “Her” and popular culture, she discussed the importance of individuals knowing themselves before they can share their lives with others, while emphasizing the need for individuals to share their stories.
The weekend also included a session on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Test led by Dana Alexander, the Director of the Office of Life Planning, and Celia Howen, the Assistant Director of the Office of Life Planning.
Students had an opportunity after the session to discuss their personality types and work to understand each other’s differences.
“It was nice to talk about our different personalities and what tendencies we had in several aspects of our life,” said first-year Hien Bui.
The session supplemented Soifer’s points about needing to understand and appreciate one’s own story before being able to share it.
When not in session, students had the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities including zip-lining, swimming, human foosball, rock climbing, basketball, table tennis, and carpet ball.
Students also had the option to meet one-on-one with faculty and staff members who attended the retreat, including Angela D’Amour, Director of Campus LIfe.
D’Amour said her time at the retreat was positive, noting that it was a “good time to connect with a few of [the students].”
First-year students had plenty of opportunity to get to become acquainted with more of their classmates.
“It’s been a great way to get to know more people. It’s been a nice break from studying, to just relax and fellowship,” said first-year Bethany Ishii.
First-year Lizzy Flum said her favorite part of the retreat was “getting to know people better and getting to know myself.”
The retreat also gave upperclassmen an opportunity to meet and interact with the incoming class as mentors.
“It’s cool to be able to hang out and spend time with first-years outside of the context of school,” said second-year Meredith Mueller.
“[I enjoyed] meeting people outside of who I’ve already met—people I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” said Second-year Kenny Chism.
Students all gathered around a fire pit to sing songs and eat s’mores, despite the lack of a fire due to drought conditions. Both nights of the retreat, worship was led by Josh Mitchell, Sean Hughes and Cole Newcomb, all first-years.
“What a cool thing it is to really get to know people, and how we can live in the ideal community that Jesus intended for us to live in,” said first-year Andrea Stewart.
All 141 attendees gathered Sunday morning at the Forest Home amphitheater for communion and a closing talk by Soifer. She emphasized the importance of students taking the lessons they had learned home with them, and putting spiritual disciplines into practice.
“My favorite thing about the retreat is what I’m taking away,” said Mitchell. “When you come to Westmont, all stereotypes, appearances, and preconceived notions go out the window. And you learn to see people for who they are: the imago dei.”
Photo Courtesy of Nathan Ngo