Anyone who goes to Emmanuel knows this school is alllllllll about retreats. EC offers them for many purposes including hiking, reflecting on college experiences, bonding with diversity groups, and for different organizations. This past weekend I went on one with a group I’m part of called the 1804 Society. This group focuses on service, leadership, spiritual growth and honoring the mission of the nuns that founded Emmanuel 100 years ago.
1804 goes on a retreat every Spring semester and it’s always one of my favorite parts of the school year! Whether you’re a fellow Emmanuel student or attend college elsewhere, I encourage you to look into going on a retreat and have included my reasons why here!
You get some time away from campus.
As the semester picks up pace and you get more weighed down with obligations, it’s great to escape campus for a bit, even just for a night. The first two years I attended my retreat, we stayed at a retirement home for nuns, but this year we changed locations to Friendly Crossways Retreat Center in Harvard, Mass., aka the oldest youth hostel in the country! It was super cute and stocked with homemade quilts, a charming staff, homegrown fruits and veggies and cozy antique furniture. I found out from their Instagram that they’re also a lovely wedding venue. If you want to learn more, their website is here. It was so nice being in a wholesome place eating home cooked meals and disconnecting from my school environment for a bit.
You get to know your fellow retreat members SO WELL.
Even at small schools where everyone knows everyone, you never know your acquaintances as well as you think. This all changes at retreats because they often include group activities that get people to share some deep s***. For my retreat, a few people are picked to speak about difficult obstacles they’ve overcome, and then we’re split into small groups to discuss their stories and similar experiences we’ve had. You cry, you laugh, and over time you realize the people around you each have their own traumas, imperfect families/friendships and setbacks. This makes you realize how truly human your fellow “leaders” are and gives you a glimpse into the strength and resilience they have.
You spend a weekend backstroking in validation.
Besides sharing emotional baggage, retreats also allow you to recognize others for what makes them great and receive that recognition in return. For mine, the first way we do this is by making Palankas, which are letters of appreciation and encouragement for people on retreats! Sometimes outside people make them for you, but for us it’s mainly an activity retreat members do for each other. We get time before and during the retreat to write them, and it’s always such a great feeling opening yours at the end of it and seeing all of the praise other people have for you.
Another activity we do is silent affirmations, something I think any retreat or training is incomplete without. For this, everyone is divided up into a few groups and everyone sits in a circle facing outwards with their eyes closed. Each group has a turn in the middle of the circle, and phrases are read out such as “someone who isn’t afraid to be themselves,” or “someone who made me feel welcome.” When these are read out, the group in the middle of the circle tap the backs of the people in the outer circle they feel the phrases apply to. It’s so much fun recognizing people for different positive qualities and sitting with your eyes closed and feeling appreciation from the people around you! I have never left this activity without a smile.
They offer a structured time to relax and reflect.
I already went into this a bit describing some of the activities we do, but retreats are a great way to get in some scheduled self care time! Retreats are often spent lounging around or doing meaningful exercise like hiking, and they also typically involve discussions, snacking, journaling, downtime, meditation, crafts and singing! They really allow your spirit to be young for a few days and to engage in activities that have no purpose other than making your heart feel whole.
In conclusion, I’ll keep this short and sweet but PLEASE, if your school offers any retreats (*cough* *cough* if you go to EC), look into attending one of them! I promise you won’t regret it, and even if it turns out to not be your thing, you’ll still gain some new friendships and memories!