New Learner Perspective: Experience Week

By Conner Katerba

As someone who had never been away from home for more than two days, leaving for an entire week to travel across the country sounded pretty terrifying. That, along with 20 something hours of driving each way, made this Experience Week Trip to visit the Youth Initiative High School in Viroqua, Wisconsin seem like a bad idea. Fortunately, I decided to take a leap of faith, trust my teachers, and try something new. I definitely don’t regret that decision as this trip ended up being an experience I’ll carry with me..

Springhouse teachers did an amazing job facilitating the journey. For example, when we stopped for the night in Chicago, we got to walk around Lincoln Square with our mentors, grab some food, and just generally have a good time. We splashed in Lake Michigan and saw the sites. Whenever we stopped to get gas, we’d usually do some silly stretches in the parking lot to prepare for the next leg. My van sang lots of songs (some of us horribly out of tune). Lots of laughing and good conversations made for a fun ride.

Our time in Wisconsin went quickly. We visited the Youth Initiative High School - a community school like Springhouse - and learned how they operate, fundraise, and sat in on a few classes. I met an awesome student named Miles and a few of us hope to keep in touch with him. We visited Thoreau College and helped out on their working farm. (I am not at liberty to discuss the amount of green beans eaten vs. harvested.) Finally we stopped in Madison, WI before heading back out on the road home to Virginia.

I can’t say the trip didn’t have some challenges. Traveling with a large group and sleeping in unfamiliar places wasn’t always easy. Admittedly, I was a little homesick at first. And I won’t go into details on the odors emanating from our van once we pulled back into the parking lot at Springhouse in Floyd. But even these things presented opportunities to learn and grow. I had some great conversations with classmates during the week I never would have had otherwise. And I now have the confidence that I can travel away from home. Experience Week Trip was definitely an experience - one that I’m very glad I decided to go on.

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