In the fall of 2013, a handful of college freshmen will pack up their worldly belongings in two 15-passenger vans and hit the road, ready to begin their first semester at Calvin.
Except that semester will take place in Rehoboth, N.M., instead of Grand Rapids, Mich.
The Rehoboth Bridge Semester is the newest addition to Calvin’s extensive list of off-campus semester programs, but it’s the only one designed specifically for incoming freshmen. It’s not a “gap semester” in the traditional sense—you’ll be taking classes, after all—but the program offers a different way to ease into college. A bridge, if you will.
“This semester is a great opportunity for students who aren’t sure what they want to do, or even those who are afraid that college is going to be just like high school,” says Professor Becky Haney, director of the Rehoboth Bridge Semester. “It’s going to put you in a totally different setting while you learn about yourself and a completely different culture—and be able to serve that community while you’re there.”
The program definitely offers the most unique way to earn your first 14 college credits. Outdoor classes, mountain climbing, service-learning among Native American tribes, weekend excursions, whitewater rafting and more will all be a part of what Haney calls “experiential learning.” Even the drive from Grand Rapids to New Mexico will be a two-week intensive immersion in Native American culture, with stops at tribal communities along the way.
Students won’t miss out on the traditional freshmen dorm experience, either: The small group will live in community, with an RA, in residence halls on the Rehoboth campus.
“We’re going to give students a wide latitude to discover themselves—and discover Calvin,” says Haney.“Because this semester is Calvin, in a wide, open space. It’s a mind-blowing way to begin college. I can’t oversell this.”