LMU senior Kaya Rodriguez, who attended public schools until she started at LMU, had never been on a retreat and she didn’t get to go on First Year Retreat during her freshman year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, when she got the chance to attend FYR at the start of her sophomore year, she was anxious but decided to take a chance and attend. “After the retreat, I felt refreshed,” said Rodriquez. “I was very excited for the rest of my time at LMU. FYR is how I got involved in both service and music ministry.”
This year, Rodriguez is one of the student coordinators responsible for leading FYR. She encourages first-year and transfer students to sign up for the retreat because that is where she met many of her closest friends and where her leaders became mentors.
Mahn Tran, S.J., is the campus minister who oversees retreats. Tran said the peer leadership on retreats really provides students with a unique mentorship because they have had similar emotions while starting college. “It’s incredible. It’s a great way for first-year students to have deep conversations with more senior students. I think peers serving peers is the best.” said Tran. “It’s great for students both mentally and spiritually.” Dozens of students applied to lead the retreat because they want to help first-year and transfer students feel at home at LMU.
Nicholas Gustafson is a freshman at LMU. He signed up for the retreat because he is an introvert and really wants to meet new people. Gustafson attended several retreats in high school and can’t wait to head up the mountain. “I’m really looking forward to bonding with people. Retreats really accelerate finding, making, and growing a deep connection with friends,” said Gustafson. “I know that after the retreat, I’m going to have a big head start with friendships and being a part of a community.”
Tran believes these experiences are rooted in LMU’s mission and that they build students’ character of the heart. Tran is motivated to help transform students and he agrees with Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., a former superior general of the Jesuits, who once remarked: “But the measure of Jesuit universities is not what our students do, but who they become and the adult Christian responsibility they will exercise in the future toward their neighbor and their world.”
Rodriguez is an international relations major and hopes to work in human rights or environmental rights. She has been studying human trafficking for the past six years. But before she buckles down in the classroom for her senior year, she is very excited to attend FYR as a leader. “My favorite part of FYR is the night hike. There is something so cool about being in nature with friends,” said Rodriguez. “I can’t really articulate it. It was one of the best experiences of my life.”
First-year students and transfer students can now register for First Year Retreat, happening Sept. 16-18 in Running Springs, California. For more on FYR information click here.