To kick off the new school year, Fairfield’s First Year Student Escape Retreat was held this weekend at the Incarnation Center from Sept. 23 to the 24 in Ivoryton, Conn. This event serves as an opportunity for incoming first-year students to branch out and meet and form new connections with other first-years through a series of various activities, discussion and icebreakers. 

Senior Caroline Meyer, the main student director of the retreat shared her perspective throughout the years, as she has attended the retreat both as an attendee and as a director.

“I went on Escape my freshman year as a scared and anxious first year and now was able to direct it as a senior who is confident and happy- something I never knew would be possible,” she stated. “Sort of full circle for me,” she stated. 

Sophomore leaders Sarah Howland and Chris Pozzuto describe their similar experience to Meyer with the retreat. 

Howland stated “I was having a hard time adjusting and thought the retreat could be a great opportunity,” and claimed, “the retreat completely turned around my experience at Fairfield.” 

Pozzuto echoed her statements saying that “after getting recommended for the escape retreat by my [New Student Leader], I attended and ended up meeting so many new people and learned so many lessons that helped me bounce back my first year.”

Howland explained the benefits of the retreat toward her Fairfield experience, saying it “provides valuable resources, the opportunity to make new friends, hear about other people’s experiences, get a break from campus and even reconnect/develop your faith in an extremely welcoming community at campus ministry.” 

Meyer described the retreat’s goals as being “for first years to meet new people, get away from campus for a bit, and grow in a comfortable and safe environment.” She personally thanked Marc Alibrandi, Fairfield’s Campus Minister for Retreats and Spiritual Programs, for helping her achieve the ultimate goal of “creating a retreat where students feel heard and valued.”

The scheduled events during the student’s stay at the retreat center consisted of talks from the group leaders, consisting of a variety of upperclassmen, to the students about faith life, as well as both their experiences and perspectives on Jesuit values within their Fairfield experience.  

Groups were created for students to participate in a series of icebreakers, where Meyer explained they were able to “talk about what they heard and share their thoughts,” as well as giving students “time to have fun, with dance parties, heads up, lots of laughs and good conversation.”

Sophomore Clare McGuinness, a leader for the escape, explained that the groups allowed students to “talk on a deeper level about their personal experiences and the talks they heard,” and that throughout the retreat “there were many team bonding moments, from dancing Friday night to a ropes course Saturday afternoon.”

First-year attendee of the retreat, Kate Kerr, described the highlights of her experience, saying “It was nice to get off campus and see what the campus ministry had planned. The retreat was filled with fun activities and personal talks, which is what I will remember the most.” 

Kerr showed her appreciation for both the leaders and directors of the retreat in terms of their effort and dedication to planning. 

“You can tell how much they genuinely cared for all of us and put so much effort in,” Kerr commented.

As Howland stated, the retreat works as a guide to both social and spiritual opportunities for first-year students by providing them with “valuable resources, the opportunity to make new friends, hear about other people’s experiences, get a break from campus and even reconnect/develop your faith in an extremely welcoming community at campus ministry.”

Both the leaders and students emphasized their positive experiences and look forward to both applying what they learned within the retreat to their Fairfield experience, as well as being involved in future retreats.

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