Adventures or Assignments?

Category:  News
Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 at 4:34 PM
Adventures or Assignments? by Macala Leigey
Contributed Photo: Tyler Waltenbaugh

Students take a semester off from academics to pursue life endeavors outside the university walls

It’s quiet.

The world is completely still, and the once impossible thought of this moment now becomes a reality. The trees clutter below, appearing as a green cluster to the highly elevated eye, and the mountains in the distance no longer hold their intimidating disposition. Legs dangle in relief from a long hike, as the cold rocky ground meets skin. Eyes meet the horizon.

Often, college is the first opportunity for many to break away from their past persona and have new experiences, but for some, the university classroom gives way to the world at large. At least temporarily.

Trails over tuition

“I decided to leave Edinboro during the spring semester of 2017 to pursue a hike of the Appalachian Trail. I decided during the end of fall semester that I had questions for myself to answer before I continued my education any further,” said Edinboro University second-semester sophomore Tyler Waltenbaugh.

He continued: “I was uninterested in all of my classes and extremely unclear of my future. I needed time to think of what path was best for me and [in] being a full-time student, time is money, so I left Edinboro.”

Waltenbaugh, a business major and Lambda Chi Alpha chapter member at EU, hiked the trail from February to June, covering 1,400 miles of the 2,190 mile long trail, hiking from Georgia to New York.

“I have absolutely no regrets about leaving Edinboro,” he further explained.

Waltenbaugh shared that his experiences outside the classroom not only broadened his amount of knowledge, but also helped him network with a diverse pool of people.

“Taking one semester off allowed me to get out and see the world in a freeing, new way. I was able to answer all of my questions I had for myself, meet amazing people, network for future careers, and gain valuable life experiences that can’t be attained from a textbook.”

Lambda Chi Alpha brother Jake Gabriel commented on Waltenbaugh’s adventures, saying, “He (Waltenbaugh) definitely has gained a sense of adventure and a desire to travel far outside the boundaries of his comfort zone.” 

Attesting to this newly found sense of adventure, Waltenbaugh encourages everyone to pursue a time of self-discovery and travel.

“After my travels, I believe everyone should take time for themselves before college starts and travel to a place they are interested in,” Waltenbaugh said.

“Immersing yourself in a new culture helps to shed light on your own curiosities and insecurities. If I could go back in time, I would take a gap year after high school and go travel and work around the country in order to find a passion before entering college.”

Goodbye books, hello resort

“Leaving [Edinboro for a semester] was one of the best things I have ever done for myself,” said Edinboro University student Maddison Hodge about her time off from her collegiate career.

Hodge chose to take a semester off Edinboro education to move to Glenwood Springs, Colorado to help run a bed and breakfast at the highest point in Glenwood at the Sunlight Mountain Ski resort.

“I worked with the most amazing people I have ever met. I helped plan weddings and events, bartended, landscaped, and [did] any help that needed done around the inn,” said Hodge.

She continued: “I grew up in Edinboro so it was a first, and a real big first for putting myself first over anyone [or] anything else. I realized that I needed to really do something for myself for once and try something new. I was feeling a little lost for some time and decided to do something that most people my age wouldn’t think about really.”

Hodge also shared that financial matters played into her decision to leave Boro.

“I don’t take out loans or really get financial aid, so I pay for school from working. I couldn’t really make the full payment and was feeling like it was time to maybe take a step back for a little [and] really think about what and where I belonged,” said Hodge.

Hodge has since returned to Edinboro to complete her degree in early childhood and special education.

“I decided to come back to Boro just to finish school. I realized so much about what I want to do, who I am, and what type of people I want in my life. School and my own well-being are the main focus right now.”

She shared that her long-term goal is to earn a certified degree in outdoor and recreational education and to open her own outdoor and REC facility for special needs children and adults, “to give them a chance to see and love the outdoors no matter what disability.”

From her adventures, Hodge hopes to encourage others to step out of their comfort zone and feel comfortable in their own skin.

“Sometimes breaking away from what you’re used to, getting rid of the toxic in your life, and really doing what you love is the key,” said Hodge.

“Many people already know this, but sometimes it’s easier said than done: Just do you, and be you, for you.”

Macala Leigey is a managing editor (print) for The Spectator. She can be reached at 

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