Villanova Outdoors Club members hike the Conestoga Trail in Pequeia, PA.

In a world filled with quarantine, Zoom classes from bed and restrictions on off-campus travel, many University students are searching for ways to get a break from the campus bubble.

With the help of the Villanova Outdoors Club, the community accomplishes this goal in safe, healthy and adventurous ways. By offering hiking trips on weekends throughout the semester, the club is helping connect students with the outdoors even during the pandemic.

The Outdoors Club was founded in 2010 with the intention of giving students an easy outlet to nature. Since then, the club has welcomed students of all levels of experience to join in on a range of activities, such as hiking, biking, kayaking, paintballing, apple-picking, white water rafting, camping and skiing.

When students were sent home in March, the club had to cancel the majority of its trips for the semester. Rebuilding momentum since then has not been easy.

“It was quite difficult to get the club moving this semester,” President Jenna Kolano said. “We typically run one to four trips every weekend of the semester, usually taking about 12-24 people. Because of COVID-19 restrictions on campus, we were told we can only run one trip every month with a fifteen-person limit.”

In a semester where students have been encouraged to venture outside, interest in the Outdoors Club has been higher than ever. As a result, the COVID-19 restrictions that the club has faced have not been easy to deal with.

“We are doing everything we can to run as many trips with as many students as possible while still staying safe,” Kolano said. “Hopefully, if things are looking up, we’ll be able to get more vans and more space.”

The club has a loose plan to run one hiking trip with a maximum of 15 people every other weekend. The club hopes to bring back other previously featured, non-hiking activities soon. For now, it is safest not to work with any third parties when arranging adventure activities.

Despite their more limited abilities this semester, club leaders are still grateful for what they have been able to organize. Coming into this semester, some questioned whether any trips would occur. Now, the club is looking forward to continuing the progress it has made this semester and seeing new students on every trip.

“Getting some fresh faces on trips and hearing different perspectives on what’s going on has been awesome,” Kolano said. “In particular, a lot of freshmen and sophomores don’t have cars, so it’s been really encouraging to get those students outside.”

The Outdoors Club is made up of an executive board of about 25 members and a general body, which receives club communication primarily by email. General body members have no dues and can participate as much or as little as they like, signing up for each weekend’s activities online. Students who are interested in joining the mailing list can find the form on VU Groups or email outdoors@villanova.edu.

Looking forward, the club hopes to recruit new members to join the board and elect new leadership for the coming semester. Current officers hope the bond that ties the board members together stays tight despite obstacles that the club has faced due to the pandemic.

“I’m doing my best to make sure that the students who will be taking higher leadership positions next semester will have the tools they need to unite the club,” Kolano said. “I hope they will keep fighting to get students outside. At the end of the day, we do it for the general body members that make our trips great.”