So today I had to particpate in a mandatory “ropes course” as a part of my Lehigh freshman experience program. I use quotations because there was actually no ropes course involved due to thunderstorm warnings and the event consisted of name-games and ice-breakers instead. All-in-all the event was not a bad experience but… if it was by choice and not required, I wouldn’t have gone been just as happy. My time could have been better used doing homework or productive activities rather than team-building with people I may or may not see again.
I don’t have an issue with ice-breakers themselves, I have a big issue with the number we have had to do in the last month since I arrived at Lehigh.
I have complied this list of all the mandatory ice-breakers I have been forced into…
- Orientation week (5 days of nothing but these activities)
- House wars (mandatory games with other people in my residence hall)
- Off-the-hook (required sex-ed course/ activities)
- Residence hall game night (see #2)
- TRAC meetings (mandatory group meeting with students in the same field of student as me)
- Hawk mentor meeting (I can’t tell the difference between these and TRAC meetings, yet they both exist)
- Lehigh Ropes course (a month after orientation, this happens)
- There is more upcoming in the semester… (exciting!!!!!!)
I completely understand the goal of getting students acclimated to school and making friends. After all, it is a huge transition from living at home to being on your own at a University. The types of activities we are forced to partake in don’t help this transition at all. All the friends I have made have been through unplanned interactions.
The point I am trying to make is that given the chance, students will learn and transition to school on their own. Humans are adaptable creatures and we change based on our environment in order to thrive. All these ice-breaker activities do is turn off students because they don’t want to participate in stupid name games. Letting them socialize on their own and make their own friends is a lot more exciting.
I am fine with a day or two of these activities just so we have some familiar faces around campus and maybe make a friend, but going overboard on them is not the way to engage students and has the opposite effect.
Ice breakers and name-games exist as a form of group bonding. Like anything, when overused, it has a negative effect. The activities are a turn-off for most students and I wish the school would realize we dot need all this hand-holding in order to succeed in college.