Want to be more involved on campus? Go rock climbing

When I began this, my final semester of my undergraduate degree at St. Cloud State, I found myself entering a period of reflection on my years as a student here—about the experiences I’ve had and the friends I’ve made. And, as reflection is usually a mixed bag, I’ve also spent time considering the things I hadn’t done, of opportunities missed.

The cliché adage “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” rang true in my case, and as the weeks of my last semester began slipping through my fingers, it seemed as though the whole campus became rose-colored, and I began to feel the loss of things I had never paid that much attention to in the first place.

I would miss the free movies in Atwood (though I had only ever been to one, “True Grit”). I would miss having a bowling alley just under my feet, despite being a terrible bowler and having never been terribly fond of it. And even though I’ve never used a GoPro and don’t know what I would use one for, I would miss being able to walk to the Miller Center and rent one.

Being a relatively active and outdoorsy person, one of my bigger regrets was not utilizing the rock-climbing wall in Halenbeck Hall more. I’ve always wanted to learn to rock climb, and here was a great wall, free to students, waiting for me just across campus. But, for whatever reason, I’d never gone. So, one February morning as I was wistfully perusing the Outdoor Endeavors website, I came across something called the “Climbing Wall Skills Clinic”, in which one could learn some of the basics of climbing, and become belay-certified. With an impulsivity that was equal parts eagerness and a serious case of FOMO, I showed up for the clinic that week.

The clinic was $20 (beginner clinics/belay certifications can be twice as much at professional climbing walls) and was only two hours long, but you learn a lot in a short amount of time. The instructor first familiarizes you with all the equipment you will be using. Then, after harnessing up, the instructor goes over the basics of belaying with you, and then has students jump right into it by belaying them and eventually each other. After a few belays and a short multiple-question test, I was belay-certified and just kept thinking how I wished I had done this sooner.

As final semesters can tend to be a little more hectic than most, I’ve only managed to make it back to belay at the wall a handful of times over the semester. But every time I do, I meet some awesome people and have a blast. And because the wall is open to the public, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with people of different ages, from all over Central Minnesota.

In my most recent time back, I volunteered to help the rock wall staff belay for a group of young siblings whose dad had brought them to climb. It was a delight to be around these kids’ enthusiasm, to encourage them to try new routes, and to see them push themselves a little higher on the wall on each successive climb. I felt a sense of engagement in that moment, and not just with my campus, but with my community. While they have been woefully too few, I will always remember this semester’s experiences at the rock wall fondly, and as some of my most uniquely empowering moments at St. Cloud State.

Whether it’s the rock wall (which I highly encourage), an intramural sport, cultural nights or one of the myriad of UPB events, I hope if you take anything away from my cautionary tale, it’s this: Get involved on your campus. If you see something that catches your interest, try it out. That’s what college is all about—taking risks, trying new things and meeting new people. Just don’t be like me and wait until your last semester!

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