The spring semester of sophomore year marks the resolution of a two-year-long transition into Princeton beginning from the moment students enter through FitzRandolph Gate. During this time, sophomores are expected to make many important decisions that may inform their undergraduate experiences and beyond.
Offered each year during Wintersession, The Walter E. Hope 1901 Halftime Retreat is a free three-day, two-night off-campus excursion designed for sophomore students to reflect on their Princeton experience with their peers. This retreat takes place a week before the spring semester, providing students the perfect opportunity to connect with their classmates, learn how to utilize campus resources, and develop a better understanding of their values before classes begin.
On-Campus Kickoff Dinner (Monday, January 23)
This year’s retreat launched orientation in the Mathey Common Room, where participants and event organizers from ODUS came together to enjoy a dinner fully catered by Campus Dining. An opening remark was given by Ian Deas h21, assistant dean and director of student leadership and engagement, who noted that this was the first in-person Halftime Retreat that was being held in four years. After this, participants got to know one another before the trip by mingling and playing icebreaker games. As the sophomores finished their meals, Pat Rounds ’15, Arts Program Coordinator, encouraged students to bring an “icon” or object that is meaningful to them on the trip. By sharing their icon in a show-and-tell fashion, students were able to discuss what inspired them to arrive where they are today, reflecting on the past and setting goals for the future.
Day One (Tuesday, January 24)
The following afternoon, 36 sophomores and the staff facilitators departed campus to Stony Point Center, a 32-acre retreat facility located in the Hudson Valley of New York. After the Tigers checked into their rooms and unpacked, a warm-up exercise was led by Pat Rounds in which students took turns introducing themselves and sharing something that they would bring to their imaginary “picnic”. A participant, Liz Garcia ‘25, noted that this game really challenged her to memorize everyone's names, acknowledging that the staff did a fantastic job in making sure that each participant was able to interact with one another through the scheduled activities. Before dinner, students shared their icons and discussed their expectations of themselves and Princeton. By sharing their icon in a show-and-tell fashion, students were able to discuss what inspired them to arrive where they are today, reflecting on the past and setting goals for the future. The first day was then concluded with a visit to Break Point Bowl and Entertainment Center, where students enjoyed their time bowling, playing laser tag, and having fun at the arcade center.
Day Two (Wednesday, January 25)
On the second day of the retreat, the group enjoyed watching the gorgeous sunrise at the Hudson River. After breakfast, the group engaged in “energizers” by recalling each other’s names and identifying commonalities and differences between participants. After each activity, students were able to reflect on themselves by answering prompts in a journal given to them on the first day. Jiaying Fu ‘25 remarked that the participants were very willing to share their experiences, creating a comfortable environment to be vulnerable and candid. Jiaying mentioned that it was reassuring to know that other students also felt imposter syndrome and went through similar experiences. Next, Mitchel Charles ’18, Program Coordinator, encouraged students to reflect on their satisfaction in an array of areas using pie charts. This was followed by a guided mindfulness workshop conducted by Jody Atkinson of Ayu Yoga Studio who gave the sophomores several tips on how to incorporate mindfulness into their daily routines.
After lunch, participants took part in an activity similar to that of Jubilee’s Spectrum in which one side of the room was set as strongly agree and the other side was set as strongly disagree and participants placed themselves on the spectrum based on their response to a series of statements. Then, students took part in a guided discussion on their priorities using selected photos. Liz commented that these activities not only allowed her to reflect on her experience at Princeton thus far but also allowed her to share that experience with others and connect with other students' experiences. She was glad and surprised to see that other students also related to her experiences in college and even shared the same goals to improve on and achieve in the future.
Before dinner, students were able to reflect on both their past selves and current time at Princeton by answering prompts in a journal given to them on the first day. By breaking out into smaller groups and sharing their answers with others, students were able to vocalize and articulate their thoughts, enabling goals to be internalized and incorporated into their daily lives. After dinner, students participated in a guided workshop to identify and reflect on the
values that are important to them, picking 10 values from a list of 377 values that defined them. One student identified this activity as their favorite because it solidified their understanding of self identity. It also allowed students to better know others through the things that they deemed as most important.
Day Three (Thursday, January 26)
On the last day of the retreat, Neena Robertson, Orientation Program Coordinator, invited the sophomores to identify takeaways from the retreat as well as write a letter to their future selves which will be sent to them during their senior spring. Before lunch, each participant shared a Rose: their favorite part of the retreat, and a Bud: what they will take away from the retreat. This marked the end of the trip as the group took their last photo together and departed Stony Point Center back to campus.
Jiaying stated that the best part of the retreat was getting to meet different people from her grade that she otherwise would not have met. She noted that it was a very bonding experience, enabling her to make new friends in an open environment. She was happy to mention that she still keeps in touch with the group, recommending future participants take advantage of this unique opportunity to make new connections.