MARSHALL - When you're starting a new chapter in life, sometimes it's best to just jump in with both feet.
That especially goes for chapters which start out with mud fights.
"We were last in line to play volleyball, so we just started wrestling," said Austin Nickleson, one of a crowd first-year students at Southwest Minnesota State University who emerged covered in muck from one of the mud pits set up on campus Saturday afternoon.
Photo by Deb Gau
After getting settled in at SMSU, new students like Kayla Barrera got down and dirty in mud pits on campus this weekend. As part of Gold Rush Days, students could take part in a variety of activities, including a mud volleyball tournament .
The mud volleyball tournament was one of the events during Gold Rush Days, the freshmen orientation program at Southwest Minnesota State University.
While the growing crowd of mud-caked people around the volleyball court were intent on making new friends and having fun, new college students said starting out on their own meant dealing with emotions from excitement to nervousness.
"It can be pretty stressful," said Angie Kukacka. She had traveled from Norwood to attend SMSU.
"I want to major in music education, to be a choir teacher," she said.
But Kukacka said she also hoped to meet new people in her time at college, and the Gold Rush Days festivities were good for that.
Meanwhile, other students like Nickleson and Katie Salden said they were "pumped" to be living on their own and meeting new people, and hadn't had much trouble getting settled in the residence halls.
"It's different at a small college. You get to know everyone really easily," Salden said.
"Getting your parents to leave is really difficult," joked new student Tommy Fitterer.
Kateyan Ruby said SMSU has a large freshman class this fall, which means orientation was "a very busy time" for the 20 returning students coordinating activities. She said the student turnout had been good for events ranging from safety and campus technology programs to social events like a concert and the mud volleyball tournament.
Part of orientation for coordinators, Ruby said, was just being there for new students, and answering questions about university life. Both the orientation team and Residence Assistants worked to connect with students at orientation.
Rebecca Scott, a Litchfield native and an RA at SMSU, said she could relate to a lot of what incoming students were going through. Being at college, away from old friends, family and familiar surroundings, can sometimes be overwhelming.
"The first two weeks are really hard," she said. For a while when she was a new student, "I kind of stayed in my room."
As an RA, Scott said she can draw on some of her own experiences to help other students out.
Going away to college is a big adjustment, but Scott and the new SMSU students gathered Saturday said it's also hard not to feel excited.
"You're in a new place, and unless you see someone from high school, nobody knows you. It's a fresh, new beginning," Scott said.