What the CUSS is an Echidna?

I left my parents at the car in the Barnes parking lot and bolted. I ran up to the third floor and walk into room 308 noticing the door decorations all over.

“Welcome to Team Echidna, Molly!!” …what in the cuss is an Echidna?

Naturally, I ignored everything and went to find my roommate who was… guess where? OUR ROOM! I was way more fired up getting on campus than I was at Haslett High believe it or not. I could scream “FIRE UP CHIPS” out our window and get it yelled right back at me. I was finally home.

After an hour of unloading all three cars and setting up my room, it was time to say “see you later” to my family (didn’t cry for the record so #blessed). My roommate, Ashleigh, and I sat on our beds after both families left and looked at each other confused as to what to do next. Shortly after, our suit mates Susie and Erika started moving in. Our home in Barnes 308 was officially complete.

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The best roommates a girl could ask for (from left to right) Erika, Ashleigh, and Susie

We met our teams for Leadership Safari later that night, waiting was the longest thing I’ve done so far at college.

Leadership Safari is a program put on by Central Michigan University specifically targeted towards incoming freshman and transfer students. Participants get the opportunity to move in a week earlier than the rest of the campus. All students are put into teams of animals (hence Safari) and are with these groups the entire week attending motivational speakers, doing trust exercises , and bonding time. It’s the largest leadership program in the world for teenage students. Fire up for that!

An Echidna is a porcupine mixed with an ant eater and a hedgehog. Meeting my team for the first time was a bit awkward, a bunch of freshman who don’t know each other (and what an echidna was) put together for a week with a leader… the most unnatural thing I’ve ever done. I’m used to knowing everyone in my town but this was a much different experience.

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Team Echidna standing with the sign before one of the speakers.

The first night was full of the basic “hi my name is… my major is… I’m excited for… I’m nervous for…” questions/ice breakers. We got a motivational speech from our amazing leader, Savannah, about how we were going to become an Echidna family and hopefully have a great week.

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The motto of the year on the back of our Echidna sign Savannah (our leader) made.

Throughout the week, we listened to some insanely inspirational speakers. The one I got the most out of was Ed Gerety. His speech was focusing on what we want out of life- no not what you want NOW, what you want in LIFE.

Gerety  was the type of guy who was all up in your face begging students to scream out into the world and to each other what our goals were. He encouraged us to not only hold back while sharing what we wanted, but to say it confidently.

“My name is Molly Gadola, and I WILL be a second through fifth grade teacher in the state of Hawaii and I will love what I do. Despite the money, despite the struggles, I WILL be successful!”

Hawaii had been a place where it was a dream location to teach in for me, but anywhere I can get a job would be nice too. Yelling dreams and goals confidently made even I start to believe it. Say it loud, say it proud.

Later in the week, we had team bonding which was all trust activities. The one which made me the most nervous was standing up in front of everyone on a platform and falling off backwards into my teammates arms.If everyone in my group could do it, it was time for me to put on my big girl pants and trust. I ended up loving it and was glad I accomplished my fear. Thanks to my team for helping me through it.

At the end of the day, Safari might as well have been the best thing to happen to me on campus. I’ve met friends who I can be honest with, who I can count on, and who I can have lasting friendships with. I’m hopeful to be a team leader next year and hope to be half as awesome as Savannah was/is.

I still miss my team, but am so thankful for the experience to learn and grow together. Thanks to Team Echidna for such a great week, and thanks CMU for the opportunity to enhance my leadership skills as well as meet new people.

You’re gonna go far, Chid.

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