UW Tacoma’s First Gen Fellows and Pack Advisors collaborated to host a bonfire event on the Prairie Line Trail Nov. 16. The event, which ran 5–7 p.m., was an opportunity for new students to make new friends, play games, and eat s’mores and hot dogs. Games such as Apples to Apples, UNO and a giant-sized version of Jenga were available to play.
“This is … exactly what we should be doing on a Friday night,” Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Services & Administration Kathleen Farrell said. “We’re in the middle of a really tough time of the quarter and a tough time in our world. Coming together as a community … [is] what a campus should be about.”
Kevin Mattox, operations assistant of First Gen Fellows and graduate student in UWT’s accounting program, believes the event helped to build a sense of community among students, something he felt was missing when he was working on his undergraduate degree.
“There wasn’t as much of an awareness of getting people from different experiences together,” Mattox said.
During the event, students congregated under the purple tent next to the bonfire preparing to roast hot dogs or s’mores. Other students participated in icebreakers like “the human knot” or danced to music from a boombox. The party was illuminated by the bonfire and the red traffic lights from the Prairie Line’s railroad sign.
Kristi Soriano-Noceda, the program support supervisor for First Gen Fellows, thinks that events such as this are important for understanding one’s peers.
“[Events like the bonfire] break those barriers so that students can learn and hear from other students [about] what they’re feeling [and] their struggles,” Soriano-Noceda said.
She also commented that both first year and first-generation college students often find it difficult to connect, especially when they do not live on campus.
“During [my own] undergrad, I would come to campus and leave, and nobody would say anything to me unless I was in a group project,” Soriano-Noceda said. “I didn’t get the full experience that I was actually paying for.”
According to Soriano-Noceda, research shows that students who participate in activities outside of the classroom are more likely to succeed in college. However, many students find it hard to motivate themselves to come back to campus once their classes are over.
“I didn’t feel like hanging out at these types of events,” international student Kuniya Yoshikawa, who attended the bonfire, said. “I think the change of environment … and being [a] first year [student] at [a] new college made me scared of going out of my comfort zone.”
Yoshikawa said it can be difficult being thousands of miles away from his home of Japan, but that attending events like the bonfire help him feel less isolated. He plans to attend more student activities in the future.
“I feel like [students] were more welcoming than what I expected,” Yoshikawa said. “It’s very fun!”
From his personal experience, Yoshikawa encourages other students to come out to these activities, even if they may not feel like going.
“You never know how many friends you are gonna make,” Yoshikawa said.
Steven LeBeau is a writing studies major at UW Tacoma.