September 06, 2013 | Matt Kucinski

Kai Koopman
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Mich.
Year: Senior
Major(s): Writing and Art History 

Where are you?

We are above Gargantua Harbor - a cape of coastline in Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ont.

Why are you there?

As a Calvin Wilderness Orientation staff member I set off with incoming students each summer for a week in the wilderness. In late August, my job took me backpacking along the shore of Lake Superior.

What’s your typical day like?

Each day on Wilderness Orientation happens more or less like this: wake up with the sun; breakfast and coffee; stretching and devotions; hiking; lunch break; hiking until destination; one hour of 'solo time' for contemplation and rest; afternoon activities like swimming, games and skill lessons; dinner; discussion of topics surrounding the transition into college; open space, silliness, extensive rounds of mafia; bedtime.

What are you doing?

I, along with two fellow leaders and eight students, am backpacking a section of the Coastal Trail in Lake Superior Provincial Park. We carry our food, shelter, tools – everything – on our backs for the 40-mile trek. Most importantly, we form a community of friends that offers support through the transition into Calvin. On the hike we also hone backcountry skills, marvel at God’s creation and learn to know ourselves better. 

How has Calvin prepared you for this?

As an incoming student, I, too, participated in a Wilderness Orientation. My trip was a gateway to lifelong passions for wilderness and recreation, as well as a community of like-minded friends at Calvin. Calvin offers a rich array of programs and activities that build upon the Wilderness Orientation experience. For me, an interim trip to the American Southwest that taught outdoor leadership, wilderness first-aid and rock-climbing skills practically prepared me to lead Wilderness Orientation.

Additionally, through challenge and encouragement of those professors, mentors and friends from Calvin, I come more ready for the task of acquainting new students to Calvin and authentically sharing my story.

What has surprised you so far?

I’m always surprised by the beauty of the environment I’m in. The wild granite shoreline of Lake Superior, with its rock islands, dense woods and regular coves, is worth examining closely at each step.

I’m also always surprised by the uniqueness of my students – and the admirable ways they choose to articulate themselves and openly receive their new college experience.

How do you see this shaping your future?

My experience leading wilderness trips has prompted me to think about pursuing further training in outdoor leadership and wilderness skills, whether through the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA) or a similar organization. Wilderness, too, will always be in my blood. Whatever I end up doing vocationally will be informed by my love of fresh air and simple living.

Best picture you’ve taken?

You can’t take a bad one of the Superior shore. If I had to choose, I would pick one of the group rock jumping into the lake.

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