ESCAPE: A 26-Year Tradition

“What is ESCAPE?” It is a 26-Year Tradition. ESCAPE, a 27-hour Overnight Retreat Experience that is exclusively available to first-year and Transfer students, was the most defining aspect of my first year at Georgetown. On ESCAPE, I met and got to know people from all across Georgetown’s campus that I otherwise might never have had a conversation, let alone said hello in passing. But most of all, I met one of my closest friends at Georgetown while on ESCAPE.

ESCAPE Sept. 16-17, Friday-Saturday Overnight

I believe that I was able to develop that friendship on ESCAPE for a multitude of reasons. The Leaders on my particular overnight created a space for everyone to be authentic. It was a novel concept for me because life on The Hilltop can often feel like you have fit a certain mold or have the appearance of having it all together in a place where life goes at a mile a minute pace. But on ESCAPE, the tone was less demanding, and the Leaders on my overnight, and every ESCAPE Leader I have interacted with since, has helped promote that paradigm shift. Admittedly, it is relatively simple to do that when the ESCAPE Overnights take place at the Calcagnini Contemplative Center in Bluemont, Virginia, which is at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. An inviting and welcoming place it is understandable why many might call the retreat center “The Hilltop away from The Hilltop.” So when I went on ESCAPE as was introduced to the values of Ignatian Spirituality through the facilitation on the part of the Leaders, I readily fell in love with the ideas of reflection and authenticity.

When you layer in the opportunities for friendship and community with wonderful food, intentional spaces to reflect and discern what you are passionate about, as well as a group of compassionate group of Leaders from all across Georgetown’s student body, you have the recipe for successfully creating an inclusive nirvana for all. For all of these reasons, and many more, it is not surprising how I was able to develop such a close friendship. And it was all encouraged by the people who shaped my experiences while on ESCAPE. Going on ESCAPE set me on a totally different path, one where although I did not yet know what I wanted to do with my life (I still don’t), I at least am more conscious of how I can find smaller, intentional communities within the grander scheme of my time at Georgetown and beyond once I graduate Georgetown.

And the fact that as one of the two student leaders who help run ESCAPE this year, I get the chance to help make that happen for several hundred first-years and transfers, is astounding to me. I am but one of several thousand of people to be affected by ESCAPE, over the going on 26 years now that it has been a retreat program, and although many changes and shifts have occurred in where ESCAPE has taken place, who has been on ESCAPE from overnight to overnight, and so on, the core fundamental values of community, understanding, and the pursuit of authenticity through reflection still shines through. As a uniquely Georgetown experience, it is amazing that I get work on and continue to be a part of a community that keeps on growing and keeps on giving and fosters a stronger sense of community for those who come to the Hilltop each and every year.

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Written by Brian Bies, B’18,  ESCAPE Coordinator