PSOC Stories

Over 300 people have shared with us their experiences in PSOC. These testimonials show this club creates lifelong friendships, a welcoming community, and empowered leaders. This club helps students find their place at Penn State and introduces students to a lifetime of outdoor recreation. Student experience tremendous personal growth through PSOC’s student-led trips and peer mentorship model all grounded in a passionate community. This model is both affordable and accessible to everyone. PSOC helps members improve their mental health, develop responsible decision making skills, and cultivate an appreciation of nature.


“I don’t even know where to start. PSOC was the most influential part of my college experience.” – PSOC Officer Alum


Lifelong Friendships:

“I’ve met my best friends through this club. This has been a huge part of my college experience, and has helped me to grow tremendously throughout my time at Penn State.” – Current Member

“Through the trips I went on with the club, I made lifelong friends, and had some of the most memorable experiences of my life. The trips I lead gave me the experience I needed to lead professionally, and to plan exotic trips for my family and friends.” – PSOC Alum

“[PSOC was] one of the best groups I was involved with at Penn State. [It] formed some of my closest friendships and fondest memories this way. (10 years later, and still living with former PSOC folks.)” –  PSOC Officer Alum

“PSOC members are still my friends 30+ years after I graduated. They are the best friends I made at PSU. The outings we did kept me sane through my graduate school experience. They were and are my tribe. I know of at least two lasting marriages that came from this club. I still rock climb, camp, hike, mountain bike, ski, backcountry ski, fish and have whitewater adventures.” – PSOC Alum

 Welcoming Community:

“I joined as a junior, afraid that it was a group of exclusive people that didn’t like ‘outsiders.’ But for half my time here at PSU, I have been missing out. [In PSOC], I connected with like-minded individuals who are ecstatic to share their love of the outdoors with others. My relationship to the outdoors and it’s community is something that I will take with me for the rest of my life. ” – Current Member

“As a shy freshman, this group of people took me in like the lost puppy I was. I had never even camped for one night and everyone was so kind and helpful teaching me the ways of eating hot sauce, cheese, dried meat, and Nutella in one wrap, how to be safe, and to just be outside with awesome friends. I always felt welcome at PSOC and the weekend trips I went on were some of the best times I had in college.” – PSOC Alum

“PSOC was the club that gave me a home at Penn State. I was shy and nervous for college, and PSOC was the most welcoming group of people I’ve ever met. No one is an outsider is this club.” – PSOC Officer Alum

Helped me find my place at Penn State:

“PSOC has led some amazing trips that oriented me as a student at Penn State in a healthy, energetic, and engaging way.” – PSOC Alum

“I found my niche in a large school through PSOC. I found a community that encouraged and fostered my passions. I would have been lost without it, and without the student led weekend trips.” – PSOC Alum

“I was the weird hippie girl at a conservative high school. And then I went to Penn State — a big place. I didn’t know if I’d ever find my people. But I found them in Outing Club. And I found a love of outdoor recreation! I hardly hiked before college, now I rock climb weekly, and moved to the west coast to be closer to amazing outdoor areas. Truly, adventuring with PSOC helped me find my place and passions in this world. If there’s anything this world needs more of, it’s connecting with others–in person (not over technology or distracted by technology)– while surrounded by healing green nature!! [PSOC is] so valuable for college students’ growth.” – PSOC Alum

Introduction to the Outdoors:

“PSOC has been a place I have been able to learn about opportunities to get outside in my community. In relation to hiking, backpacking, and all things outdoors- I am a newcomer, and going to PSOC meetings has helped me learn what I want to do and how to do it. I was really looking forward to getting a chance to go on a trip next semester … and am deeply saddened that it will not happen.” – Current Member

“Sleeping in the woods was a pretty foreign idea [to me] when I came to Penn State in the early 80’s and without the Outing Club, I may have missed this exceptional part of my education. … The advantages and opportunities that the outing club offers to the student body cannot be overstated; it fosters healthy life habits and an appreciation for the natural world. The University should be encouraging more participation in these sorts of activities, not pushing them outside the University setting.” – PSOC Alum, PSU Staff, Parent of current Student“After my freshman year at PSU I wanted to transfer to a smaller liberal arts college to get more personal attention and input on my work, but then I found PSOC. PSOC absolutely made my college experience. The opportunity to design and lead trips was particularly formative and helped me build confidence in my own abilities outdoors. Coming into PSU I had never been backpacking. After 3 years in the Outing Club I graduated and went on to hike the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails and also to lead groups of young hikers.” – PSOC Alum

Lifetime of Outdoor Recreation:

“I’m a 2003 graduate of PSU and was a member of PSOC for years. Now as a Physician Assistant, I see many patients who are in need of the stress relieving qualities of nature and the excellent physical activity provided by activities such as hiking.  For me, learning how to backpack, canoe and rock climb with PSOC has provided me with a life long skill set including interpersonal skills and physical fitness. I’m disappointed in those at Penn State who made this decision.” – PSOC Officer Alum

“PSOC was a life-changing experience for me.  Penn State without the Outing Club would not be the Penn State I knew.  PSOC has influenced the lives of many members. Many young people who took up canoeing or kayaking while PSU students continued with it for years, sometimes for a lifetime.  People found spouses and made long-term friendships in the Outing Club. It would be a terrible shame not to provide these opportunities for today’s students.” – PSOC Alum

“The PSOC served as a ‘bridge’ for me between my youth as a Boy Scout and my future involvement with adult outing clubs.  I was a PSOC member (Hiking Division) back in the early 1970’s under the tutelage of Tom Thwaites, and was of course heavily involved with building trail for the Mid State Tail.  I also fondly remember numerous weekend backpacking trips all over north central Pennsylvania with the PSOC, and we also had end-of-the-summer week long canoe trips up in Algonquin Provincial Park.  Immediately upon graduation, I joined an adult outing club in my new home in the Binghamton, NY area and have now been involved with it for well over 40 years, along with regional outdoor clubs like the Finger Lakes Trail Conference and the Adirondack Mountain Club — and no question, I credit the PSOC with fostering and nurturing this life-long interest in outdoor recreation.” – PSOC Alum

“My fondest memories at PSU were thanks to the outing club. Thanks to this community I developed a passion for backpacking that my wife and I continue to this day. If not for PSOC I might have never discovered the outdoors. It’s is a travesty that the next generation of students might be deprived of the opportunities provided to generations before them.” – PSOC Alum

“PSOC is how I got started with backpacking, taking a trip up to somewhere in the Laurel Highlands in October 1998. I was such a goofball – I remember bringing a gallon milk jug for my water. … It would be impossible for me to convey the impact that PSOC had on my life. After graduating, spending time in nature became a part of my identity. I’ve spent more time wandering with a backpack and doing peak bagging in the Catskills, Adirondacks, Greens, and Whites than I can possibly write about, and made connections with other people who ultimately became my close friends and social circle over the course of thirteen years living in Brooklyn.” -PSOC Alum

“PSOC introduced me what became a lifetime love of hiking, camping, climbing, kayaking, canoeing and mountain biking.” – PSOC Alum and PSU Faculty/Staff

My roots as an outdoors women began at the PSOC. Those trips and then the subsequent friends I met there have exposed me to numerous experiences that I now have and share with friends/family. My friends and the activities at PSOC allowed me to fill my free time with countless of hours in the woods, on rocks and in caves where as my other friends spent countless hours drinking, partying, and conducting questionable behavior.” – PSOC Alum

“The off campus events were a true high point of my time at PSU. It helped me develop a lifelong interest in hiking and paddling. ” – PSOC Alum


Empowerment and Leadership:

PSOC was the first club I joined when I got to campus my freshman year, in 1997. One of the first people I met is still a good friend today, 21 years later! The club provided an amazing chance to go to wonderful places, and meet remarkable people. Outdoor skills encourage self reliance and better self esteem, all things we need more of. Getting away for the weekend, into the natural world provides more education than any text book. Long live PSOC! – PSOC Alum, State College Community Member

“PSOC helped me be an effective leader and to connect to the local State College community. When planning a trip we had to think through every possibility and be prepared for it. This was true immersive education and very few of my classes rivaled what I learned through PSOC. As a freshman, I really looked up to the juniors and seniors leading trips and they instilled in me that it’s possible to lead your peers at such a young age. This early exposure to leadership has allowed me to take risks in my professional life, not doubting my age or experience level.” – PSOC Officer Alum

“PSOC was the biggest and probably best part of my Penn State experience.  I developed leadership skills, both from being a leader on the trips and from serving as President my senior year.  PSOC led me to ORION, where I worked as a leader for two summers and was one of my favorite things I did at Penn State.  The experience and connections I built through PSOC helped me land my first “real” job after college, working as a wilderness therapy instructor in southern Utah.”  -PSOC Officer Alum

Personal Growth:

PSOC helped frame and shape my life. It taught me leadership, organization, professionalism and offered an alternative to the fraternity scene while at university. PSOC was my family and gave me the long term friends and lessons that stood by me when my heart was broken and then again when it was fixed when I met and married my wife.
It launched me in a professional trajectory of service to my community and gently fostered interests that led me to work for outward, teach for an international wilderness medicine organization, guide international mountain trips and eventually get a second degree in nursing. I now am a flight nurse/paramedic and am a leader in my organization. All of this can be attributed to my time at PSOC. It shaped me. It changed me. It continues to do both.” – PSOC Officer Alum

Responsible Decision Making:

“PSOC has introduced me to a lot of new people, friends, and EXTREMELY helpful/important information about the community, hiking, and safety. I would not be nearly as safe on hikes if I did not join PSOC; this club was essential in building my safety procedures and knowledge.” – Current Member

“PSOC also provided me with the confidence and skills needed to continue backpacking and hiking on my own. As an alumni, I often find myself sharing trail skills with others, and I realize that my comfort on the trail stems from my time with PSOC.” -PSOC Alum

“PSOC was where I got experience organizing and advertising meetings and activities, leading meetings, negotiating arrangements, caring for equipment, as well as dealing with the outdoor elements and how to be safe there. These were all important skills that have served me well in my career and into my retirement. Some of the best and fondest memories of college come from outing club activities and experiences.” – PSOC Officer Alum

“In PSOC, I continued to hone my wilderness emergency medicine skills, leadership skills, and develop as a human and critical thinker. The wilderness provides such an important opportunity for learning and growth because of it’s uncertain nature, not in spite of it.” – PSOC Alum

Appreciation for Nature:

“Every student who has taken part in PSOC has had the chance to see the natural world unhindered by the yolk of larger societal constitutions. This is the way that students learn about and embrace new ideas and indeed the very nature of OUR environment. Not by the heavy hand of a dogmatic supervisor, but by the curiosity and wonder of something greater than themselves. One finds much diversity in wild lands, from the smallest ecosystems to the largest and even in the company with which one travels! I love seeing students, and really everyone, taking advantage of the  fantastic outdoor recreation available throughout Pennsylvania! We have so much to offer as a state and as small but mighty communities across the commonwealth.”  PSU Faculty/Staff

Improved Mental Health:

PSOC Saved my life… PSOC was one of the first social groups where I not only felt accepted, but I felt that I could be myself. I built most of my stable adult friendships through this club. The strength of these friendships was in part through our personal growth during the very activities that are being called into question. … Not only did I grow as a person thanks to this club, but the friendships I developed later ended up saving my life. … I can assure you that without the steel strong friendships I had thanks to this club, my outcome would be different and I most likely would not be here today.” – PSOC Officer Alum

Trip Affordability and Accessibility

“[PSOC] introduced me to backpacking and helped foster a love for the outdoors. How else will I be able to afford fun backpacking trips? Adventure Recreation is great, but I can’t drop $100+ on every trip I take.” – Current Member

“I came to PSU from a low income background w/ limited exposure and opportunity for outdoor adventure. PSOC’s peer-to-peer model of outdoor education gave me an opportunity to dive right in, learning soft skills and group dynamics, and leadership skills through running trips. It’s exactly what college clubs are suppose to do — allow highly motivated and self driven students to build healthy communities and outlets for the student body. I eventually became president of PSOC in 2002 (2003?), which became a springboard for my career going forward. I still, 15 years after graduating from PSU, use experiences from my PSOC trip leader days as responses for interview questions.” – PSOC Officer Alum





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