By Ava Tourgeman ’23
Students set aside their phones and enjoyed nature with their peers during this year’s Emmaus Junior Retreat. The two-day retreat took place Jan. 27-28 on the tranquil grounds of Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center in Sierra Madre.
At the start of the event, juniors were guided to step outside their comfort zones as they were paired in groups with people they may not traditionally gravitate toward. By leaving us all unplugged, free from the stress created by homework and social media, we were able to not only truly connect with the people around us, but also connect with ourselves.
It is customary to get caught up in all of the noise around us and that is why it is so important, and we are so lucky, to have these overnight reflective retreats. Participants found the retreat to not only be an escape from their average routines, but an innovative experience that helped them learn more about themselves and their classmates.
Personally, I enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and strengthening current relationships. Through reflections, I was able to truly see both my faults while also acknowledging my strengths, which sometimes I can easily overlook. I noticed how negative I can be and how important it is to be positive even when the world around us is constantly changing due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
I took the liberty to survey juniors about their retreat experiences, and here are a few of their responses:
Karina Kostantinavicius: “I decided to go on the retreat to spend time with my friends, talk to more people in my class, and have a stress-relieving time. My favorite part was being able to stargaze for a bit at night during snack time, and then the next day being able to enjoy nature and play games with my friends. I learned time passes really quickly when you are not focusing on stress or tasks that need to be done. I was able to talk to people I usually do not talk to at school, which was fun, and then also able to spend stress-free time with my usual group.”
Meredith Weeden: “I learned that time off is extremely valuable to me and sometimes I really need to take my foot off the gas and relax a little bit. My favorite part of the retreat was the candle-lit reflection at the end of the first day.”
Ava Metzger: “I liked climbing trees with my friends and just having our own time to do what we wanted. I also really liked when we wrote a letter to God or the Universe. It gave me time to reflect on my life and I really enjoyed that.”
Sophie Schwartz: “I realized how relaxed I actually was. I feel like that at sleep-away camps, but I wasn’t expecting to get that out of a one-day religious school retreat. I was surprised that I was actually able to relax and just hang out with people. I also didn’t really realize this until I got home and remembered how stressed I usually am and how much I had to do. I really enjoyed the people in my group. There were two people that I was very close to in middle school, but I basically have not talked to them since so it was really nice to get to reconnect with them and remember some of our old inside jokes. There were also people I only talk to once in a while in a class but have never really talked about anything other than school, so it was great to get to know a different side of them. Overall, the retreat actually made me appreciate the community at IH more and that was unexpected.”