I confess, by the time we hit the last stop of our four-day Virginia campus sojourn, I was dragging a bit. (Admittedly, the prospect of a lengthy trip home that included a layover in the Atlanta airport – my least favorite of all of the airports in all of the world – probably didn’t help.) But it turned out that the right place to go for a bit of rejuvenation was the campus of Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Now readers, don’t let the name allow you to stereotype this small (small!) school of around 1,000 undergraduate and 800 or so graduate students. First of all, Mennonites are not Amish (though some confuse the two orders or believe them to be interchangeable) and second of all, one need not be Mennonite to attend EMU. The tenets of the Mennonite faith are based in the ideals of peacemaking, community building, and service – all of which I think we all can argue are things that the world can always use a little more of.
Unfortunately for our group of counselors, our arrival happened to coincide with the first full day of EMU’s fall break, so campus was a bit emptier than it would ordinarily be on a Saturday morning, but we made do. In fact, we were treated to a passionate explanation from one professor of the types of cross cultural experiences that EMU students experience during their time there, as off campus study for a period of time ranging anywhere from three or six weeks to an entire semester is required for each and every student. Some will go into nearby Washington D.C. while other, more culturally adventurous students will trek (yes, trek) across the Middle East as part of the school’s most popular overseas program. We counselors then enjoyed the opportunity to ask questions of a student panel made up of students who were staying on campus for break.
And why would some students remain on campus during their break? It turns out that EMU is a rather diverse campus with a healthy number of students from a variety of states and even from 39 different faith backgrounds. Many come from all around the world to study in their unique, pioneering peacebuilding and development program at either the undergraduate or graduate level and still others come for the idyllic location in the midst of the Shenandoah Valley. (See my photos for just a glimpse of how lovely the area is.)
Despite the myriad of outdoor opportunities available, there is currently no equestrian presence on campus, but horse crazy students are sure to find outlets in the rural community in nearby Harrisonburg. And after all, what fosters leadership better than working with our equine friends?