The Hike: An Official Welcome
In the first weeks of the school year, it can be easy to spot the freshmen roaming around campus. They’re the ones holding maps, wearing lanyards around their necks, and feeling uncertain in the dining hall. Being the new kid on campus can be hard, especially when all the upperclassmen already have a set friend group and routine. So how can freshmen truly feel like they fit in?
Since the inception of The Hike over ten years ago, Grace College has strived to make the transition to college exciting and welcoming for freshmen. Every student on campus experiences The Hike, and it creates a sense of solidarity among Lancers.
At the beginning of every school year, one day is devoted completely to The Hike, which consists of several tasks that first-year students must complete. It is a test of students’ problem solving and strategizing skills, challenges their creativity and ability to think outside the box.
Throughout the day, freshmen have the opportunity to explore campus and work together in teams. The day culminates with a special “boat race” at the beach in Winona Lake Park, followed by food and fellowship. One theme is true all day long: students are interacting with each other and finding their Grace identity along the way.
Fast-forward three years, and yesterday I found myself leading a group of freshmen through The Hike. This is the beauty of the First Year Experience – it connects freshmen to campus and connects them to upperclassmen. I had the privilege to help facilitate others’ growth and fellowship. And I felt just as accomplished through that experience as I did as a freshman completing The Hike.
The Hike is an open invitation to join the party that is the Grace Community. It is a rite of passage for all first-year students—a challenging one, not a scary one. While some might expect an “initiation” into college, freshmen at Grace can expect a welcome. If you’ve completed The Hike, you are now a Lancer.
By Bailey Gerber, a senior at Grace majoring in communications