What are you doing for Spring Break? Maybe you’re already planning that college road trip you’ve thought about since high school. Maybe you’re just glad to go home and live in a place with more than one room.

You could, however, be enjoying a free trip to Disney World thanks to the combined efforts of student groups and university departments. How is it possible, you might wonder, that during a semester full of stress and sleep deprivation, you could have an opportunity to visit the fantasy land of Cinderella and talking mice?

The answer: A free trip to Disney World is the grand prize in the Big Hunt, an all-day, District-wide scavenger hunt for freshmen. It’s happening this Saturday, Nov. 9, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The Big Hunt is co-sponsored by the FRIENDS Initiative and InterHall. The goals of the FRIENDS Initiative include encouraging students, faculty and staff to foster a sense of community among us all. Because the idea of “building community” can sometimes be so elusive, a guiding principle of the FRIENDS Initiative has been a focus on developing actual events rather than getting bogged down in a discussion of the obstacles to community building. The Big Hunt is one example of a tangible event that can enable students to collaborate and connect with each other in new ways.

Developed over six months by FRIENDS members Roland Riebl (MSB ’03) and Mary D’Ariano (NHS ’03) with help from att Connolly (COL ’04), Eric Lashner (COL ’05), Erin cMullen (COL ’03) and Jan Vobecky (COL ’03), the hunt is also sponsored by the Students of Georgetown, Inc., Health Education Services, the School of Foreign Service and the School of Nursing and Health Studies. After the hunt, you can relax with newfound friends at the freshman dance sponsored by InterHall, where you’ll learn whether or not you’re one of the lucky winners.

So besides the promise of Disney World, why might you want to spend a Saturday doing a scavenger hunt around D.C.? First, it’s a good excuse to go to all the places in the District that you ordinarily wouldn’t visit because they’re always there.

Second, you can get to know fellow freshmen outside of the normal context of school. Maybe there’s that girl in your microeconomics class: You always wanted to say something, but could never think of anything to talk about except the Law of Diminishing Returns. While freshmen pick their own groups, that girl from economics could be your sixth person, if you only had five members.

Or maybe you’ve only heard rumors of the one other first-year student from Louisiana. By sheer luck, however, you end up in the same group as the only other Georgetown student who can appreciate the value of the Rural Life Museum in Baton Rouge, La.

More generally, you’ve probably figured out that aside from the 3 a.m. conversations in the halls of New South, it’s very hard to get to know people well in the midst of the ordinary routine. Lives filled with classes, jobs, activities and parties inevitably frame the context of daily interaction. Sometimes it only takes a change of scenery and a common goal to inspire a meaningful conversation.

Also, the value of organized activities like the Big Hunt often lies in serendipity. You can’t point to an obvious way that a scavenger hunt will enrich your life, but it just may result in a new friendship or some similarly indescribable, personal and unexpected experience that could soon enough be remembered as a “classic” memory of freshman year. That all assumes, of course, that you’re willing to reconsider your first impression that a student-sponsored scavenger hunt is cheesy.

So whether your motivation is the Magic Kingdom, the desire to share your political views with George Stephanopoulos over a free 1789 dinner (yes, SFS, that’s another prize), or just a chance to get off campus with friends, you can sign up on Saturday morning in Healy Circle (rain site is inside Healy Hall).

And for the doubters out there, those who jealously guard their reputations as cynics, balance your priorities carefully. You could be going to a place where the only source of stress is the impending free-fall drop on Splash Mountain.

Josh Bancroft is a junior in the School of Foreign Service and is a member of the FRIENDS initiative.

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