Coming into the CHP as a freshman, I had an advantage: my older brother. He had graduated from UCI a couple years ago and had four great years with the CHP. He was so excited for me and strongly encouraged me to not only become a part of the CHP community but to really engage with it. So I knew what to expect and how to get involved: attend and participate in Campuswide Honors Student Council (CHSC) meetings, the Fall Welcome Bonfire, weekly Coffee Hours, Spring Retreat, Battle of the Brains, and any other events that fill the CHP calendar.
Without a doubt, the highlight of my CHP involvement my first year was the Spring Camping Retreat. Each year, the Honors Peer Academic Advisors (PAAs) organize a camping trip in the desert with the sole purpose of community bonding and fun. “Bonding” sounds cliché, but I have so many friendships thanks to the retreat. Although none of my friends signed up, I was determined to go, not wanting to miss out on all the fun. So I embarked on this trip alone without my closest friends, unsure about whom I would eat dinner with, hike with, and share a tent with. But it wasn’t too long before I was hanging out with a group of CHP students. We quickly bonded on the hike, and soon we were preparing dinner together and stargazing late into the night. I also talked to older CHPers who shared their insights and advice around the campfire and over s’mores. By the end of retreat, I had made friends with honors students who I didn’t live with or have classes with. While some were older and some the same age as me, we were able to come together because of our common interests and experiences in the CHP. We all loved our retreat experience, and we vowed to stay involved in the CHP community.
Now as a sophomore, I am the Vice President of CHSC—and I probably wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for retreat. The 24-hour trip into the desert made me realize all the opportunities, friends, and enjoyment that I get from the CHP. I decided to get really involved in the program. The friends I made from retreat were also looking to find their place in the CHP community, so we all began to attend the CHSC weekly meetings together. When elections came around, I won the Vice President position, and my friends took a position on the council.
This year I went on the Spring Camping Retreat once again. Of course, the hikes were amazing and the food delicious—this experience will surely be the highlight of my second year. I entered this trip with new confidence as CHSC Vice President and with my retreat buddies by my side. Knowing that others might have been in the same boat as I was, I made it a point to start conversations and form new friendships. I encouraged fellow students to continue the CHP community experience after retreat by coming out to CHSC meetings and events and to consider applying to be on next year’s council. Sharing a tent with ten other students of all different ages and majors was a great opportunity to bond and make memories. I woke up the next day reminded of how much I love the CHP and how many great people there are in the program. Through the retreat and these conversations, I hope that my fellow students were able to find their own love and passion for the CHP. I returned to campus again with new friendships, new experiences, and new insights.
The one piece of advice I have for you is to get involved! Attend CHP events—over sixty events are planned by the CHP and CHSC a year!—even if your friends can’t make it. As I learned from retreat, there will always be other students at the event, happy to say hi and ready to become a familiar face. By simply choosing to attend, you already have something in common! I was rewarded by my two retreat experiences with friendships and unforgettable memories. Now, I realize that my brother’s excitement for me stemmed from all the opportunities and experiences that he knew I had awaiting me in the CHP. I am excited that you are now in my position: adventure lies ahead; take advantage of every moment!