By Anna Morgan

Sophomore, English Major and History Minor

The transition from high school to college can be difficult, but for some Honors freshman, that change is already off to a good start. These new Gators attended H-Camp, a retreat from August 17-19 at Camp Kulaqua in High Springs, FL. H-Camp was created to help first-year Honors students make connections and have fun. The program has grown from a single-day retreat in the fall to two weekend retreats, one in fall and one in spring. At H-Camp, students are assigned to a small group led by a SOFA, an H-Camp alumni whose title stands for “Slightly Older Friend . . . A.” Within the small groups, campers discuss the transition from high school to college and learn how to get involved in activities and leadership at UF.

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Additionally, campers play team-building games, participate in scavenger hunts and design competitions, and connect with both their fellow freshmen and a staff of upperclassmen. The traditional panel discussion offers campers the opportunity to ask questions about campus life and draw on the experience of the five SOFA panelists. This year, Dr. Kevin Knudson, director of the Honors program, visited H-Camp and spoke to the campers about how to make the most of their college experience.

As a SOFA for this year’s H-Camp, I got to meet so many interesting, talented freshmen, for whom I have very high hopes. It’s hard to describe exactly what happens over the course of a weekend that transforms a group of inexperienced freshmen into empowered Honors students ready to take on the world, but one thing is for sure: H-Camp changes people’s lives. I know that going to H-Camp helped foster in me a sense of enthusiasm and pride in being an Honors student, and that has spilled over into all my activities at UF, both within and outside the Honors program. During the first few weeks of school, it was such a relief to wave to fellow H-Campers I recognized in the sea of students rushing through Turlington. Knowing that I had a family of people to share the H-Camp experience with made my transition to UF that much easier. When it came time to submit SHO Executive Board applications, I was ecstatic to see that so many of my friends from H-Camp also wanted to be part of making a difference at UF. H-Camp gave me the courage to apply for leadership positions, the perspective essential to making the most of college, and the camaraderie that comes only from wrestling someone to the ground while playing Titanic.

As one of this year’s SOFAs, I am excited and inspired by the potential inherent in this year’s group of campers. In the year to come, these H-Camp alumni will go on to become leaders in their class. Over half of last year’s Student Honors Organization Executive Board are former H-Campers, as is the current president of SHO. H-Campers have become Cicerones, Honors Ambassadors, research assistants, and peer leaders. They are the students who take advantage of everything UF and the Honors program has to offer and the ones who understand that, at a fundamental level, being an Honors student is about more than just academics: it is about being part of a family.