North Central College - Naperville, IL

Find yourself at a frozen retreat

Your icicle-coated eyelids crack open to the black of an igloo you built a few hours ago. You’re in the wilderness of northern Wisconsin, and you cannot sleep. Your 0-degree-rated sleeping bag will keep you alive, but it won't completely shield you from the frigid temperatures of a December night—the frost on your chin reminds you of this. Your door—a thin trash bag—billows open. Is this the arctic wind cutting through the woods? Is this the movement of an animal hunting the granola bar in your pocket?

This is Men vs. Wild, a December Term retreat that combines indoor activities and outdoor challenges for personal growth.

“It’s a strange sensation to wake up in total darkness and not have a light, to be freezing cold in a little space,” says Daniel Hannapel, who huddled in an igloo with Jeremy Gudauskas, North Central College assistant dean of students.

Braving the cold for a night was part of the three-night Men vs. Wild experience, which took place at HoneyRock, a camp hidden within the thick forests of northern Wisconsin. During the retreat, students scaled rock-climbing walls, hiked for miles in snowshoes, chopped firewood for the local community and—with a ‘no technology’ policy—relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company without phones in the heated lodge.

“With 10-week terms, students are going 100 miles-per-hour. It’s important to stop and reflect on your life, your relationships, and everything you’ve learned along the way,” says Brian Rainville, director of ministry and service, who led the trip.

The men explored different themes—nature, purpose, relationships—by pushing themselves to the limit, including a night with nature. Some slept in unheated tents while Hannapel was in his igloo. “I learned that I can be in an uncomfortable situation and thrive,” says Hannapel. “I learned that I can survive anything.”