SFU Students Build Conversations and Connections at CAMP

April 18, 2023

On a cold, bright weekend in February, 16 first and second year SFU students met at Sasamat Outdoor Centre on beautiful Sasamat Lake to learn and practice the tools of dialogue and effective communication. 

Our annual CAMP retreat is not only a place to learn more about dialogue, but also a comfortable and welcoming environment for students to challenge their perceptions, forge new connections, connect with nature and spend time in self-reflection. 

"The atmosphere at CAMP was one of the safest and most welcoming places I have ever been to," says CAMP participant Sakeeb Abdulla Azad Akter. "From the moment I arrived, I felt like I was part of a community."

From evenings spent listening to music, singing and chatting around a campfire to days of canoeing, archery, painting, games and activities, there were many highlights, but the students say the sense of community and connections made were the best part.

“CAMP had an incredibly comforting and open atmosphere. Vulnerability was encouraged and space was made for everyone to voice their own perspectives,” says Samantha Brown. “This atmosphere allowed us to build genuine connections with others, which was my favorite aspect of CAMP.”

In the context of a fun, relaxed environment, the activities are meant to encourage these connections, challenging students to step outside their comfort zones and communicate in new ways. Students learned about gaining insight into complex problems through conversation, speaking from and listening to diverse perspectives, and assessing their skills and abilities.

“My experience at CAMP was one of personal growth and self-discovery,” Akter says. “It gave me a whole different perspective on effective communication. Before CAMP, I thought communication was mostly about speaking and getting your point across. However, the activities and discussions at CAMP showed me that active listening is just as important as expressing yourself. I realized that actively listening to others can change the whole dynamic of a conversation. It makes people feel heard, safe, and comfortable to confide in you.”

CAMP students learned that dialogue and effective communication are fundamental in all interactions, in many different settings. “CAMP reinforced this and deepened this understanding into something that can be brought into academics and the workplace, instead of being solely for personal life,” says Shea Melenka.

In a society where conversation is often dominated by conflict and controversy, these skills truly are invaluable in every aspect of life, and we know these students will continue to enrich the SFU community with everything they’ve learned.

CAMP helped me understand how a dialogue can actually be practiced, and most importantly, that it is possible,” says Brown. “Previously, healthy conflict resolution was not something I often witnessed, but if I can have my perspective valued and feel safe, conflict is no longer a fear but a chance to grow and understand one another better.”

We are proud to offer our CAMP retreat to SFU students each year, and to be a resource to the SFU community in best practices for dialogue. Learn more about our student-focused initiatives, including the Semester in Dialogue here.

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