How Tech does Fall Break
Students and alumni of Tech are making the most of the upcoming Fall Break by traveling in all directions.
From Savannah, to the Smoky Mountains, to West Virginia, you’ll find Yellow Jackets all over the place the next several days.
Hiking the Georgia Loop with Outdoor Recreation Georgia Tech (ORGT)
Fourth-year nuclear engineering major Colin Thomas will be backpacking on the Georgia Loop, one of the toughest hikes in Georgia. The Loop pieces together a leg from three other historic trails including the Appalachian Trail, the Duncan Ridge Trail, and the Benton MacKaye Trail.
“I’m taking this Outdoor Recreation Georgia Tech trip with nine other students, all of whom are on my future expedition team to New Zealand,” Thomas said. “Over Winter Break, the 10 of us will set out for 14 days to ‘tramp’ through the New Zealand backcountry and across the picturesque landscapes of the South Island.”
Thomas is an experienced backpacker and was a member of a Scotland expedition that included 10 incoming Stamps President’s Scholars backpacking down the West Highland Way in Scotland.
“I’ve really enjoyed backpacking during my years at Tech and have done a fair amount of it, including the Scotland trip and several overnight hikes on the Appalachian Trail,” he said.
Thomas is excited to see how his team fares on the strenuous four-day, three-night outing over Fall Break.
“The team has only done one overnight hike together so far and everything went smoothly, but longer trips are more challenging,” he said. “It’ll be important for our group to keep spirits high and learn how to manage conflicts.”
Thomas encourages others to take backpacking trips for personal growth. “Usually the trip goes smoothly if you’ve planned well, but every now and again you encounter a problem that you weren’t expecting. Overcoming such problems has been incredibly beneficial and rewarding to me — increasing my abilities and building personal resilience.”
Paddling Lakes in North Carolina
John Traendly, a two-time Tech graduate, is attending an ORGT-sponsored trip to North Carolina. The group will spend three days kayaking on three remote mountain lakes — Fontana, Cheoah, and Calderwood — bordered on the north by the Smoky Mountains National Park and on the south by the Nantahala National Forest.
ORGT has sponsored this annual trip since 2012. It is led by ORGT staff, and any student, faculty, or alumni who have completed the prerequisite instructional trips can participate. Traendly, who earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1968 and master’s degree in industrial management in 1973, has participated in the trip since its inception.
Traendly enjoys the trip for the beautiful, remote location, along with scenery and wildlife, and he is looking forward to another fun and relaxing trip this year.
“It’s a quiet getaway shared with others who love the outdoors,” he said.
Visiting Historic Savannah
Each year, the Office of International Education (OIE) hosts a trip over Fall Break to let international students meet and engage with their peers in an interesting location. This year, OIE’s International Student and Scholar Department is hosting an overnight trip to Savannah, Georgia.
Forty-eight students and scholars of various years and majors are going on the upcoming trip. The group departs on Sunday morning and will take a guided tour of historic downtown Savannah upon arrival. Then participants can enjoy free time to explore the city. On Monday, the group will travel to Tybee island to spend time on the beach and relax.
“The OIE sponsored trip is great for F1 and J1 students who are unable to travel home over the short break,” said Cortney Johnson, the international student and scholar advisor who is co-leading the trip. “Many international students are unable to get away from campus over quick breaks. The trip is a great way for these students to get off campus, take a break, and learn about a new city and culture. Some students overlook visiting smaller cities like Savannah, so we provide them with a chance to see unique places.”
Alternative Service Break to the Smoky Mountains
Second-year biology major Claudia Varnedoe is co-leading an Alternative Service Break (ASB) to Cherokee, North Carolina, over Fall Break. The team will consist of 14 participants, including two student leaders and two staff advisers.
“I decided to take this trip because my ASB last winter was so rewarding,” Varnedoe said. “I really bonded with the participants and got to know them on a much deeper level. My team worked with Give Kids the World in Orlando, Florida, where we assisted critically ill children and their families.”
Varnedoe is looking forward to the challenges that the upcoming trip will bring, including camping, learning how to lead a team in a difficult situation, and bonding with a group of students.
The team will volunteer their time with the Trails Forever Program within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trip is environmentally focused, and service will involve working with professional trail crew staff to perform trail reconstruction projects throughout the park.
Varnedoe hopes all students can attend one ASB trip during their time at Tech.
“These trips are valuable because you really bond with the group while doing service,” she said. “No other organization on campus has that level of group closeness.”
Rock Climbing in New River Gorge
Fourth-year chemical engineering major Jonah Weil will travel to New River Gorge, West Virginia, to rock climb with ORGT.
“This trip is part of a larger ORGT climbing expedition that myself and 11 others are taking to Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, in December,” he said. “The Fall Break trip is one of a few training trips we have taken to prepare ourselves for the bigger trip ahead.” The group has already traveled to Tennessee and North Georgia this semester and last spring. Weil goes climbing outdoors nearly every weekend and uses longer breaks to go to places farther away.
Weil is looking forward to the upcoming trip and the chance to spend time with 11 other students on the expedition team and explore new climbing routes in New River Gorge.
“Going outdoors is a great source of stress relief and a provides me with a break from the busy atmosphere of Tech,” he said. “Rock climbing and other outdoors sports allow me to unwind and come back to classes better focused. Plus I enjoy the chance to spend quality time with friends and challenge myself physically and mentally in beautiful places around the country.”
Serving with Habitat for Humanity in Asheville, North Carolina
Second-year business administration major Rachel Raisin is co-leading an ASB trip to Asheville, North Carolina. Her team will work with Habitat for Humanity on construction projects focused on either new, low-cost homes or restoring older homes for communities in need.
“I love Habitat and their mission to help families have affordable housing,” Raisin said. “It’s a very sustainable organization because they don’t just give the houses away. The partner families in the program must pay for their houses at low mortgage, attend homeownership workshops, and gain sweat equity hours by volunteering in the office and on-site.”
Raisin is looking forward to working with her peers in Asheville.
“It’s awesome to know that there are so many students who give up their breaks to help others,” she said.