New Kids on the Block: The Freshman Santa Fe Experience

Posted by Danni Yang (and the class of 2016)

Fresh from a week of nonstop bonding games, mountain hikes, and cultural immersion activities, the 2016 McDermott Scholars reflect on their experiences from the “Santa Fe bubble” before the reality of classes, tests, and papers sink in.


Things we learned

“Santa Fe was an awesome experience – late night stargazing, interesting lectures and museums, and getting the chance to meet really great people. That being said, make an effort each night to get a reasonable amount of sleep so you don’t miss out!” – Kinnari Karia

“If the river guide says back, paddle back. Otherwise you may or may not get tossed into the river on the easy day.” – Danni Yang

“Buy water shoes for the river rafting, and don’t forget to wake your roommate up for the opera!” – Areeb Siddiqui

“Teva shoes are like duck boat tours for your feet – they’re good on land and in the water.” – Mark De Los Santos

“It’s better to be Dr. Voit’s foosball partner than his opponent.” – Samir Rahi

“The moderate speed hiking group is optimized for happiness.” – Brad Ritschel

“Go in the slow group – it’s the perfect combination of sightseeing and conversation.” – Samee Ahmad

“Probably should have brought more fruit snacks. You meet a lot of people, carrying fruit snacks.” – Brian Wei

“If the person sitting next to you starts falling asleep during something important, poke them really hard and offer them water.” – Lexi de Montfort Shepherd

“Learn to pronounce names. If you don’t, four more people might end up with the same name….” – Kevin Ong {Sidenote: Kevin may or may not have called several people Chad. There are no Chads in this class.}

“Though a tremendous experience with new friends, oxygen bars are a scam – save some money for a few fajitas.” – Carson Lutterloh

“Everyone involved in the program is way cooler than you could ever imagine.” – Ben Allsup

“Bonding is important. Sleep is also important (slightly less important).” – Sarah Whipple


Our favorite parts

“My favourite part of Santa Fe was getting to stargaze during the rafting trip. Never in my life have I been able to see the Milky Way before, so getting to see that many stars at the same time was a truly wonderful experience.” – Antonio Mendiola

“As a city girl, I had never seen the Milky Way before. I nearly cried the first time I saw all those stars by the river.” -Danni Yang

“The genuinely amazing stories told by the river guides about their lives.” – Samee Ahmad

“Visiting the home of Kim’s aunt, Barbara Flicker, was a highlight of the trip. The hospitality, gorgeous library, sculpture garden, and delicious tomatoes made a day to remember.” – Sarah Whipple

In the Flicker home.

“Both the O’Keeffe and National Art Galleries offered beautiful pieces that challenged my conception of New Mexican art. I could have spent an entire day in either museum” – Benji Lunday

“When Dominic warned us to brace ourselves, then proceeded to immediately fall out of the raft.” – Brad Ritschel

“The stars! The meteor showers! The mountain ranges in the distance and the small cacti in the foreground! How beautiful.” – Veronica Liu

“Bringing fruit snacks and ending up with more than I started with. Also trying to get rid of 42 ounces of peanut M&Ms, which is harder than you might think.” – Brian Wei

“The last part of the Atalaya hike when I was desperately running down the last part of the trail trying to get back to campus so that I could find a bathroom. I got really lost and thought I would have to spend the next couple hours pretending to be Bear Grylls, so I turned around trying to retrace my steps. I walked barely a minute in the other direction when I saw a wild Kevin emerge from the bushes (who had run after me), ready to guide me home.” – Lexi de Montfort Shepherd

On top of Atalaya.

“After a long day of rafting, nothing beats sinking into a lawn chair and gazing up, watching as meteors streak across the black night sky.” – Kevin Ong

“Hearing the staff explain their love for us after a simple 1.5 hour human knot felt fantastic, as cheesy as it sounds.” – Carson Lutterloh


“My favorite things we did were those that were too spontaneous to be on the itinerary. Watching a meteor shower, playing ultimate frisbee, and exploring an incredible estate; it all just makes me excited for the unplanned adventures the next four years will bring.” – Kenzie Flynn

What we’re excited about for next year

“Exploring the city of Dallas with a new group of close friends.” – Areeb Siddiqui

“Late night food runs in the dad mobile [Benny’s car].” – Ann-Cathrin Guertler

“Late night food runs with my children.” – Benny Rubanov

“Free lunches with professors courtesy of the Honors College.” – Samir Rahi

“Getting my freshman 15 at iHop Express.” – Brad Ritschel

“Fruit snacks. And Lucky Charm marshmallows. And ice pops. And popcorn. And eating sugar cubes right out of the sugar bag in front of everyone.” – Veronica Liu

“Finding love.” – Samee Ahmad

“Fruit snacks?! And meeting people, I guess.” – Brian Wei

“Being on the other side during Finalist Weekend.” – Lexi de Montfort Shepherd

“I’m excited to see what amazing things the 2016s will accomplish.” – Sarah Whipple

“Can’t wait to go to Noodle Wave a million times, explore Dallas with a great group of friends, and eventually graduate from baby Comets into real ones.” – Danni Yang


One thought on “New Kids on the Block: The Freshman Santa Fe Experience

  1. What is up with the ’16s and fruit snacks? Also, the part about Chad made me laugh. Glad you all were able to have a great time! 🙂


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