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Start your UW-Madison Journey with Basecamp, a Student-Led Wilderness Orientation

By Katrina Kitzmann

Uncertainty, discomfort, unfamiliarity, anxiety.

For many incoming students, these are some of the feelings that come up when they think about those first few weeks of college. That’s why Wisconsin Basecamp, a wilderness orientation for new University of Wisconsin-Madison freshman and transfer students, exists.

Students choose a backpacking, canoeing, or rock climbing trip. No matter what they choose, they’re going to learn about college life and outdoor skills and have the opportunity to create life-long friendships.

Trip student leaders also address new students’ questions about life on campus throughout the trip. Some of the main questions Basecamp leaders receive are related to residence hall life, eating on campus, healthy living, getting involved in organizations, and fears of going to college. Basecamp is a chance to ask current UW-Madison students questions without fear or judgement.

Basecamp leaders set up camp on a Wisconsin River sandbank.

Without question, when these students begin classes in the fall, they will be confronted with plenty of new and unfamiliar situations. But, those who participate in Basecamp have already recently tackled new situations on their trips. Basecamp helps students feel prepared to take on new challenges during the trip and, especially, in the fall.

Often, one of these nerve-racking moments in college is trying to make new friends. This is where Basecamp also really makes an impact.

Hannah Bucci, a past participant and now a leader, said the best part of her experience was the friendships she made “that have remained for [her] entire college experience so far.”

Another Basecamp alumnus and leader, Sean Killalea, was an out-of-state student who knew very few people before coming to UW-Madison. Killalea said that the trip “provided a great group of friends to socialize with when [he] got to school.”

To those students uncertain about signing up for Basecamp, Killalea says, “Basecamp did a great job at preparing me for UW-Madison. At times, I was put somewhat out of my comfort zone, but so was everyone else on the trip, which only helped everyone bond more.”

The bonds that participants make with each other and with the outdoors are so impactful that many of them even go on to lead trips themselves.

When asked why she became a Basecamp leader, Bucci said, “My experience with the program was so great that I wanted to share that with others. I wanted other students to get just as much out of it as I did.”

For those who are on the fence about Basecamp, both Bucci and Killalea say to challenge yourself, and take the chance. With the next few years filled with new people, challenges and experiences, why not start the journey now?

For more information, visit union.wisc.edu/basecamp. Registration open now.

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