For finals week of the Fall 2021 semester, we decided to hold a stress relief hike at the University of Central Florida (UCF) Arboretum to give students time to decompress during the extremely stressful finals week. Finals week is a very daunting time for many college students, as most classes suspend regular meeting times and many other extracurricular events take time off to give students the chance to study for their final examinations. However many students, like the ones that attended our hike, felt heavily isolated and anxious with all their looming exams. We decided this trip would be very valuable to our UCF community, as we all needed some time to disconnect and enjoy the fresh air at a convenient location for students. We decided that the arboretum on our own campus, which has 14 miles of trails on 80 acres of conserved land, would be an ideal location to show off Central Florida’s unique environments.

We thought it would be best to take advantage of the time we had with fellow students to share the knowledge we had on the local flora and fauna. Many times throughout the hike, we pointed out specific plants and fungi that would be useful for foraging or would share some interesting facts on the various species themselves. We also answered several questions about the controlled burns that had been performed in the area and explained the importance of the many species of animals that inhabit the area, like the extremely important Gopher Tortoise.

It was awesome to have such an engaged and interested group of students asking lots of questions while enjoying the outdoor environment. Many of the students had not had experiences in the UCF arboretum before and we really enjoyed getting to introduce our fellow students to such an important natural space in our local environment. At the end of the trip, each of the students that attended expressed their thanks for holding such an outing, especially during finals week. One student, in particular, shared that he had felt lost and really needed this hike in these past two weeks due to the stress of finals and said that they were looking forward to the outings we have planned for the future.

We are excited to continue to provide our fellow students with impactful outdoor outings in our local community in the coming semester!

UCF Students hiking
Some fungi found during the hike
Sharing knowledge with fellow students
A bridge found during the hike