Students in Travel Kansas Club know that Kansas is not just flat

By Risa Fukaya – Horizon News & Features Editor

When students think about places to take a vacation, Kansas is probably not the first location to come to mind.

“People sometimes think that Kansas is just flat and boring,” Michael Oyer, men’s resident director said. But he wants to change that image of Kansas through “Travel Kansas.”

Travel Kansas is a club dedicated to exploring Kansas. They explore natural wonders and local events in Kansas once a month. So far, they have been everywhere from Kanopolis State Park to Maxwell Wildlife Refuge and Coronado Heights.

On Jan. 20, 11 students went to Mushroom Rock State Park in Brookville where they viewed the world’s largest Czech Egg, and Wilson Lake in the town of Wilson. Kate Kilmer joined the outing for the first time.

“The weather was so nice,” she said. “Its highlight was being in nature, taking pictures, and making friends.”

Kilmer said that even students from Kansas can enjoy the activities because going off campus and having fun is always good refreshment. Now, she is asking Michael to plan a camping trip.

Savannah Bontrager and Kate Kilmer in front of of the world’s largest Czech Egg in Wilson Lake. Photo courtesy of Kate Kilmer

Oyer started running the club in the fall of 2016, his first year as a Hesston resident director. Since he was raised here, he knew of many Kansas attractions. He also noticed that students were always busy with homework, and didn’t have opportunities to go out. In order to get students to know the attractions of Kansas and to give opportunities to get students off campus, he started Travel Kansas.

At first he was nervous. He wasn’t not sure if students were going to think that the activities were worth joining. But that day, he saw students were very curious and excited about the trip. His confidence grew and he began to believe Travel Kansas was going to work in the future.

Oyer usually plans outings to locations he has visited before or heard of. He sometimes gets ideas from Kansas travel books. Last semester, he and students went to Elk City State Park in Southeast Kansas. The students saw a waterfall and climbed cliffs. The same day, they experienced a festival called “Neewollah” (Halloween, backwards) in Independence, Kansas. They enjoyed good food there and walked the city streets full of shops, restaurants and rides.

Jeff Kauffman and Curtis Oesch in Elk City State Park. Photo courtesy of Michael Oyer

In the near future, Michael is going to take other students to some of the same places since several students who attended the Women’s March in Wichita could not join last time. He also plans to take students to Geary Lake Falls, Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and Cheyenne Bottoms.  The students will be able to see wild animals like birds, snakes, and fish there.

Sophie Miller, Jenna Boller, and Anna Zehr at the Neewollah. Photo courtesy of Michael Oyer

Last year, a student proposed they visit the geographical center of the U.S. in Lebanon, Kansas.

Oyer tries to listen to the voices of students.

“I want to do things that students want to do.” Oyer said.  “I encourage students to explore and enjoy nature wherever they are.”


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