When I was in middle school, my parents devised this creative way to get me to appreciate the outdoors. On second thought, coercion is probably a better way to characterize it. I was simply locked out of the house from the hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Whatever I did for that duration was up to me, but it just had to be outside.
Through “fun-ishments” like this I’m sure that many of us have come to lack an appreciation for the outdoors. The reality is that the “great outdoors” can feel, at times, not great. It’s hot, muggy and, worst of all, very buggy. We buy A/C units for our collegetown houses to avoid the heat. We watch Netflix rather than enjoy a good sunset. We kill every spider that dares to encroach on our indoor domains. But today, in the space of about 750 words, I’m here to challenge our indoor tendencies. I am here to implore all Cornellians to take advantage of the unique outdoor recreation opportunities that our university has to offer.
This past summer, I had possibly my most rewarding experience ever as a Cornell student. The week before O-Week, I participated in Outdoor Odyssey as a trip guide. For those of us whose freshman years started without Outdoor Odyssey either due to choice or COVID-19 (like me), the program is a low cost pre-orientation out-tripping experience for incoming freshmen. It’s a chance to get outside your comfort zone, destress and meet the people you’ll be spending the next four years of your life with. And these benefits aren’t exclusive to trippers either. As a canoe guide, I slept under the stars nightly, swam everyday, ate trail pizzas and met some of the coolest incoming freshmen in the class of 2026. More importantly for you all, though, is that this amazing week-long trip serves as my endorsement for all of the programming offered by Cornell Outdoor Education.
This is obviously a rhetorical question, but how many of you have actually heard of COE? I’m fairly certain that percentage isn’t anywhere close to a hundred. When the name “Cornell” gets tossed around, it evokes images of libraries, books, the bell tower and legions of students with a big red sense of ambition. Yet what may come as a surprise to the Cornell community is that our university is home to one of the most well-run, all-encompassing outdoor recreation programs in the country. All of which is at your fingertips as a graduate or undergraduate student at Cornell.
Ever been rock climbing? What about backpacking? Or skiing? Or mountain biking? Well experience in any of these doesn’t matter in the slightest. As a Cornell student you can do all this and more through classes, gear rental and programming offered through Cornell Outdoor Education. If you have the desire to be outside, even if you’ve never done it before, COE will help to facilitate that experience for you. First stop: the basement of Bartels Hall. Meet the instructors, talk to the gear issuers and enroll in classes that get you out of your comfort zone and, most importantly, outside.
My advice to all of you is simple. Log off your computers, turn off your A/C units and go outside. It won’t be long till the bulk of us find ourselves in cubicles stacked together like sardines, so go fill up on fresh air while you still can. For now, though, you go to a university surrounded by greenery with some of the most robust outdoor programming, all readily available for students. Take advantage of it. Walk to Bartels, journey into the basement land, get involved with Outdoor Education and tell Mark I sent you. You may find yourself guiding an Odyssey trip or enrolled in an ice-climbing PE class, but regardless, time spent in nature isn’t ever a waste. Then, once you’re all grown up and living in your cubicle, come back and support us so that students like you can continue to find their way outside.
Brenner Beard (he/him) is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]. Agree to Disagree runs every other Tuesday this semester.