By Glenda McCarthy
Heading into the first year of college or university can be a daunting experience for a new student.
There’s the fear of the unknown: for some students it is the unknown of moving out of their parents’ homes for the first time; for others it could be packing up and moving to a completely new town; or, that uneasy feeling of walking through the doors of a new school where they know few people – if anyone at all!
CNA is using experiential learning to help make that transition to college life easier through the Pre-Orientation Wilderness Leadership Experience (PROWLE).
Before orientation started in September, 10 students were selected to make the trek to Gros Morne National Park for a three-day backpacking adventure along the beautiful and rugged coastline of the Green Gardens Trail Aug. 28 – Sept. 1.
These future CNA alumni started their post-secondary learning early – taking part in an exercise in diversity, inclusion, team building and leadership.
PROWLE is only available to first-year students, and according to Jeff Martin, program developer for experiential education, this was a deliberate decision because these students are often beginning a new journey in life.
“The overall goal is to help ease the transition into post-secondary, as in many cases, students can feel uneasy beginning a new chapter of their lives. They often come with lots of questions and sometimes fears, and it helps for them to know that they are not alone and there are many others just like them.”
Martin believes PROWLE plays a supporting role in helping students to adjust to post-secondary life in many ways.
“The experience allows students to meet peers, develop lasting relationships, learn about the college, and become introduced to skills that promote success. The participants are given opportunities to develop or hone communication skills, conflict resolution, leadership skills, organizational skills and most of all, have fun being introduced to CNA.”
Martin says there were an overwhelming number of applications this year, but just 10 seats available.
Lenny Tiller, a first-year Community Studies student at Bay St. George campus, was selected for one of those coveted spots. He describes PROWLE in just one word: “amazing!”
“It’s an experience I’ll never forget,” Tiller says. “It was amazing and I wish all students could avail of it. We started off as 10 individuals who didn’t know each other, and by the end of it, we all became friends. I really wish everyone in school could participate in it.”
For Martin, it’s those types of reactions that makes PROWLE worth it.
“Usually by the end of the PROWLE experience, the students are excited and looking forward to starting classes, and sometimes even put themselves forward for leadership positions at their respective campuses,” Martin says. “This year was no different. The feedback from the participants is often filled with praise for the opportunity to participate, in addition to helping some feel at ease with starting post-secondary.”
While their PROWLE journey may have come to an end, the adventure for these students had just begun as they headed back to their campuses to take part in Orientation 2017 activities.
“Due to the diversity of the students we had participate I think it was very successful this year,” Martin says. “We had students from all across the province again, and this year we included some international students, as well as a student who was legally blind.”
To read a first-person account from student Jason Billard, which includes a description of the type of activities they participated in his column, you can check out “What makes a great leader?”