The Daily Gamecock

Outdoor Recreation encourages students, faculty, staff to go out of comfort zones

Those who took University 101 may already be familiar with Outdoor Recreation because of the challenge course classes they took part in as a group bonding exercise. However, many are not aware of what else Outdoor Recreation has to offer and how easy it is to get involved.

Outdoor Recreation is composed of six areas: adventure trips, challenge course, climbing wall, paddle sports, bike shop and gear rental shop. 

“We’re more of a resource for students; not necessarily a club," said Ashley Hamada, a fourth-year media arts student. "It’s your choice to come back.” 

Hamada is the adventure trip manager. Part of Hamada’s job includes selecting where the trips take place. To ensure the locations scouted are safe and manageable for all students, Hamada said she tries to choose places with which she is already familiar.

“We’re never out there leading things that we couldn’t do ourselves,” Hamada said. 

Those who are a part of Outdoor Recreation are trying to emphasize more involvement and exposure across campus. Hai Nguyen, a second-year exercise science student, sought Outdoor Recreation out himself.

"I just looked online,” Nguyen said. “I’m not really involved in any other extracurriculars, so I just kind of wanted to do something that was low commitment but also kind of fun at the same time.”

Nguyen has been on two adventure trips with Outdoor Recreation: A camping trip to the Smoky Mountains and a canoeing trip down the Congaree River. 

The number of students, faculty and staff permitted on each trip is limited, allowing for stronger relationships to develop, especially when participants are pushed outside of their comfort zones.

“That’s really cool, because I feel like that kind of shows that we are creating bonds with the participants, they’re not just paying customers," Hamada said.

Victoria Chebotaeva, a mathematics international graduate student, also went on the canoeing and camping adventure trips. As an international student, Chebotaeva said she is grateful to have the opportunity to venture off-campus and experience what the United States is like outside of Columbia.

“It’s really good for internationals ... because you can see America,” Chebotaeva said.

Savannah Hemling, fourth-year risk management and insurance and supply chain student, is the challenge course manager and has been a part of Outdoor Recreation since her second year at USC.

The challenge course, located between Blatt and Bates Residence Hall, is mostly used as a team bonding exercise for groups who sign up in advance. However, once a month, free climbs are offered for individuals who are interested.

Over the summer, a new ground-based course was installed. This course targets those who don’t want to step too far out of their comfort zones. Its addition has proven to be successful for the challenge course.

“It’s really enhanced our Program One,” Hemling said. “Our Program One is all ground-based low ropes. It’s something that students that are really terrified of heights or intimidated by the tower, it’s something that we can still have them be involved in and really enhance their experience.”

The motto for the course is “challenge by choice,” which gives students a push "one step outside of their comfort zone" but never forces them to do anything they don’t want to do, Hemling said. Both USC and non-USC affiliated groups can sign up for the challenge course with a fee.

Nguyen said he plans on getting more involved in Outdoor Recreation in the future. 

“It’s a great way to take a break,” Nguyen said.

To sign up for excursions, students, faculty and staff can go to the Adventure Trips tab on the official Outdoor Recreation page on A list of upcoming trips is available, along with the dates, costs and location. Spaces are limited, so students, faculty and staff are advised to sign up well in advance to guarantee spots.