By: Celine Moarkech (Q29)
Early wake ups came a few days early for Cohort 29 students this semester because on August 24th, they headed to YMCA’s Camp Letts for their new member orientation.
As everyone walked into the meeting room that morning with sleeping bags and large backpacks, it quickly became clear: they were meeting their newest family members at UMD, people that they hoped they could laugh with in the QUEST lab and build something great with in 190H. Eyes scanned the room to find familiar faces but to also study the new ones. All that was known is that everyone was now in QUEST. That was about it. However, that was also about to quickly change and that one commonality was about to flourish into dozens.
The first day started with the expected icebreakers like pretending to be mystical creatures and speedy games for learning everyone’s name. Shortly after, the students were split into their teams for the semester. Groups then split off to do puzzles and some high and low ropes courses. It was a great opportunity to get dragged through mud resembling peanut butter, to be tumbled on by a fellow team member, and to be contorted in the most strange ways. But more importantly, it was when trust developed, when people cheered their new friends on, and when Q29 started to really come together.
In between the activities and camp style meals, teams developed team names and introductions while also having their first shot at developing a product together. Come the night time, everyone gathered around the campfire to roast s’mores and to introduce their teams. There were the ExtraterQUESTrials, the Best QUESTern, Clair-voyance (in honor of their mentor), and many more. Each introductory skit was funnier than the last, and the evening was filled with laughs. Following the campfire, teams regrouped one last time to work into the night on their first-ever product presentation together. Q29 student David Rosenstein said, “The true highlight of the two-day experience was bringing our idea to life. It was unbelievable to see some people who have always been leaders step back and count on and work with their team members.”
The next morning, Q29, along with their mentors and the Quality Guild’s judges sat at the picnic tables to present their projects. Products ranged from the FriendDex to an app on UMD’s dining hall nutrition to a cup that maintained its user’s ideal temperatures. It was a creative first round of projects and only a glimpse into what the next few years hold for Q29.
Having completed orientation, Cohort 29’s students are officially integrated into QUEST! Q29 may have concluded their orientation, but they are back with great memories and have started developing friendships that will live long beyond their time in QUEST. As David (Q29) ended, “aside from free food and time in the QUEST lab, I’m most excited to be surrounded by the best people at Maryland!” QUEST really is a community full of great people, and the journey has just started for its newest members!