Hastings College students explore zoo, Kansas City, Black Hills

Students standing in front of a penguin exhibit.
Hastings College students in front of the penguin exhibit at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha.

To create more off-campus endeavors for students, Hastings College resident directors built a program that gives students the opportunity to take weekend trips and explore something new.

Laura Arnold, a 2016 alumna and resident director in Taylor Hall, planned the second semester student travel trips as a way for students to learn more about each other and to build community at Hastings College. Trips for spring 2019 included an overnight stay at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska; a day trip to Kansas City, Missouri; and a three-day excursion exploring Fort Robinson State Park in Crawford, Nebraska, and the  Black Hills.

Students posed for a photo in a parking lot.
Students went to Kansas City and a Royals game in April.

While planning the student excursions, Arnold said she wanted to do things that were close by and realistic, but also involve elements that students may not typically get to experience by themselves. The travel and lodging part of the trips were free, thanks to a Hastings College Foundation Board of Trustees Innovation Grant, with students only having to cover the cost of food. Each trip included 26-28 students with two to three sponsors.

The first trip consisted of a two-hour tour of the zoo when it was closed to the public. After the tour, students headed back to the aquarium to sleep near the penguin exhibit. Before bed, the group was able to socialize and watch a movie, eat snacks and have a little downtime before lights out. The group woke up early the next day to see the “jungle wake up” as the sun rose.

“It was a unique experience to see the gorillas get released into their habitat in the morning. They were full of energy and they aren’t normally like that in the middle of the day,” Arnold said.

The trip allowed students, who came from all parts of campus, to bond with others that they might not have otherwise have spent time with.

“The trip made me feel more connected to the other students,” said Anna Flarity, a Hastings College senior who attended the trip. “I got to meet students from around campus that I never got the chance to interact before and spending the night in an unfamiliar place is always a great bonding experience.”

Broncos traveled further

The other trips for student engagement included a day trip to Kansas City and a three-day excursion exploring Fort Robinson State Park, the Black Hills and more.

Students pose for a picture in front of Mount Rushmore.
An excursion in May went to Fort Robinson State Park, the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore.

The Kansas City trip began at the River Market and students had the opportunity to explore the area, shop the farmers’ market and eat from different international cuisine restaurants. Students then toured Union Station and Crown Center before they headed to Kauffman Stadium to watch the Kansas City Royals win against the Cleveland Indians.

The final trip of the semester was a three-day trip with an emphasis on hiking. Students first traveled to Fort Robinson State Park and utilized the campgrounds for a stew cookout over a fire.

The next morning, students began their day with a hike from the base of the buttes in the park to enjoy breakfast at the top. The group then headed to Sylvan Lake, where the movie National Treasure was filmed, followed by a stop in Keystone, South Dakota, for lunch and a trip to Mount Rushmore. They then drove through Custer State Park in South Dakota to see the buffalo, and on their way back to Fort Robinson stopped at Toadstool Geological Park to see rock formations.

The final day was spent driving back to Hastings with a stop to see Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska.

“My favorite part by far was hiking and exploring with my peers,” Chloe Carson, a first-year student who went on the trip said. “I got to enjoy nature, visit cool landmarks and create memories with good friends and new friends.”

By Courtney Hanson, a junior from Brookings, South Dakota, majoring in communication studies and philosophy and religion.

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