The University of UtahRedthread Home

Nineteen Minutes from Paradise

Fall semester is about a month away, give or take. A common sight now are the imminent students appearing on campus to get “oriented.”

There are many ways to arrive on campus and assimilate into your home for the next four years.

As for me some decades ago, I went Greyhound from Salt Lake to Bellingham, Washington with two huge cardboard boxes. A cab dropped me and goods at the dorm. When I started to unpack all my worldly possessions I discovered I hadn’t thought to bring hangers. In a moment that could have been a humiliating disaster, I became instant, life-long friends with my brand-new roommate. Arriving by station wagon from eastern Washington, she had more hangers than clothes. Lucky for me.

Another way to arrive would be to camp under a full moon in Big Cottonwood Canyon with 27 strangers, like the final group of the U’s incoming freshmen who chose the 4-day “Outdoor Orientation” option last week.


They not only learned the ropes of campus life—they used ropes to ascend the sheer quartzite cliffs of Storm Mountain.

They prepared and shared Dutch-oven lasagna and Dutch-oven peach cobbler after a rousing game of “Peasant.” They trekked through the woods and up the ridge for an <br />inspiring view of Wolverine Cirque. They experienced the intimate coordination of smooth paddling on the Weber River. There were no hangers involved, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that some life-long friendships were begun during this very Utah experience.

<br />

It was bittersweet watching them get to know each other over KP duty, breathing in the unbelievable scenery and beginning to shed their old lives—marked with a Bethel PA t-shirt or a Texas hat—and transforming into red-clad Utah fans.

But in the 19 minutes it took me to drive back to campus, I realized why this orientation is so special. Whether you came from Tyrol Basin, Wisconsin, Anchorage, Alaska or Centerville, Utah, your introduction to the place where you’ll study biomedicine, political science and creative writing began in one of the most beautiful, rugged, inspiring, panoramic and transforming landscapes on earth. And that just has to affect the way you study, make friends, live.

At the U, you’ll always be 19 minutes from paradise.  Where else can you say that?

<br /><br />