Going to college out of state is an incredible experience; it teaches you how to be independent, helps you grow outside of your comfort zone, and teaches you how to become a responsible adult, someone accountable for their own actions. Though going to college out of state poses some financial burdens, if you are lucky enough to have the means, I highly recommend taking advantage. There are many advantages and benefits of going to school far away from home, but there are also many concerns that can arise.
One of the most intimidating experiences of going to a college out of state is the question of whether or not you will make friends. As someone who is from North Carolina, but goes to school at the University of Arizona, I understood this concern all too well. As a freshman, figuring out if I would make friends or find people who understood me, was one of those burning fears I had. Fortunately for me, the University of Arizona provides ample opportunities to get involved, but one in particular truly made an enormous impact not only on my life but also, my academic career: Bear Down Camp.
Bear Down Camp (BDC) is an integrative experience that highlights diversity, education, and camaraderie for incoming Freshman. Their Core Objectives and Values include integration and transition, continuity (i.e. provide a support system for campers through the duration of their academic careers), pride and tradition, involvement, and inclusion. These are the values in which the program was built around, and they continue to be the values that are highlighted at camp. BDC is only one program associated with the ASUA (or the Associated Student of the University of Arizona); the ASUA is a student-run organization focused on aiding engagement of students through a variety of different programs, events, and policies.
Bear Down Camp is a week-long event where incoming Freshman, referred to as "Gatitos", are taught the traditions of the University of Arizona, given resources for involvement, and encouraged to step outside their comfort zone by a group of active students volunteering as "Gatos", or camp counselors. This program brings in a diverse set of individuals, from all walks of life. It is an experience that aims to not only to educate and prepare incoming Freshman but also create a collaborative, fun environment in which they can meet new people and become comfortable in their new home away from home.
The impact of Bear Down Camp can not only be seen by the changes in the students' behaviors, comfort level, and demeanor before/after camp, but also by their academic performance. The mission of BDC is to provide a supplemental and integrative first impression of the university while providing the necessary survival tools to get through the year. Through different informative workshops, incoming Freshmen are given numerous tools to be successful throughout the year, as well as, a myriad of ways to get involved outside/after of camp.
The involvement and academic preparedness provided by BDC is one that should be noted. Bear Down Camp is an organization which is proud of their impact on students as those incoming Freshman who attend BDC are known to correlate with better academic performance, higher graduation rates, among other educational factors. This program is one near and dear to my heart, it is one that I have been involved in since I was a Gatito myself.
Going to a university out of state or far from home can be a mixed experience; it can be a unique one, encouraging growth, but it can also provide fears of isolation. Bear Down Camp is an integrative, diverse, and educational experience for incoming Freshman. It is one that provides a fun environment of collaboration, camaraderie, and academic success. The tools, information, and workshops presented at Bear Down Camp have lasting effects on Freshman, as those who attend are known to receive better grades and have a stronger academic performance throughout their college careers.
Bear Down Camp is a wonderful first impression to the University of Arizona, one dedicated to the well-being and support of those incoming students. This was a place where I met some of my best friends, a place where diverse people come together with an energetic attitude and fun spirit. A quote from one camper states that Bear Down Camp was a place where they received, "friends and memories that will last a lifetime. Bear Down Camp helped me break out of my 'bubble' and get connected with campus life through amazing school pride and spirit." For anyone out of state and planning to attend the University of Arizona, Bear Down Camp may be the perfect place for you to start your journey.