With a full week of classes looming ahead, the UT Outdoor Program wants students to escape to the outdoors.

UTOP will host a $5 outdoor trip every day of Welcome Week, Aug. 25-30. Unlike many trips throughout the year, the Welcome Week events will not be full day or weekend trips.

"The (Welcome Week) trips we offer are catered toward giving people a taste so they don't feel overwhelmed or nervous," said Benjy Darnell, director of the outdoor program.

This week, UTOP trip-goers will choose from caving, whitewater rafting, sunset sea kayaking, an evening hike, mountain biking and the only full day trip, whitewater kayaking. Julianna Burchett, senior in environmental science and UTOP manager, named the hiking trip the least strenuous option, but added that every trip is geared toward beginners.

Burchett also noted that students who get involved with UTOP once tend to come back for more programming later. According to Darnell, the National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association recently conducted a study revealing that UTOP's adventure trip participation of 857 participants was 60 percent higher than the national average of 532.08. UTOP's climbing wall attracted 15,929 participants, a statistic 209 percent higher than the national average of 5,148.57.

Darnell, who graduated from UT with a degree in therapeutic recreation and recreational administration, credits the success to the close proximity of trip locations from campus. He said the amount of time devoted to developing student instructors also helps.

"On these trips we want to show people what they are capable of doing instead of saying, 'I can't do that,'" Darnell said. "That's why I work in this profession. It's amazing to see people succeed at something like that."

Burchett, who got involved with UTOP her freshman year, will lead the Welcome Week hiking trip.

"We teach a lot of new skills and get people outside their bubbles," Burchett said. "We take them to places where their phones don't work and they're outside their comfort zone. It's like an escape."

An outdoor escape, Darnell suggested, is a perfect activity for clearing the mind.

"Being outdoors is great, because it brings people down to foundational levels," Darnell said. "It reveals their true self when they're nervous or not sure what they can do. When they succeed they're overwhelmingly happy. We want to show them that can permeate through all facets of life.

"That's what's great about the outdoors. It helps you see what's possible."

To sign up for a trip, visit the UTOP office on the bottom level of the TRECS. For more information about UTOP visit facebook.com/utoutdoor.

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