What I WISH I knew before starting college as a Therapeutic Recreation major
#1 YOU NEED TO LIKE PEOPLE. Like working with people all the time, and like working with the difficulties and challenges they have. Working with other people is just one of the many things that is done in TR, but it is the most important. Get to know the people that are your clients, the likes and dislikes, the tendencies and behaviors. Compassion definitely helps; if you can put yourself in the position of your clients and understand what they are struggling with, think of how they feel, it will be much easier for you to understand solutions.
#2 COLLEGE ONLY HAPPENS ONCE (for most people) TAKE ADVANTAGE. Talk to people who have been there already. Get involved- talk and make friends with everybody, the people in college will become some of your dearest friends and professional contacts as you get older. I still get together with the friends that studied therapeutic recreation with me, and the girls I started off with in my freshman dorm.
#3 JUST BECAUSE YOU LIKE IT, doesn’t mean you don’t need to study. Although some lessons in the major seem like common sense, they need to be applied. Tests don’t mean everything (although still important), most of the learning in TR is done outside of the classroom, and apart from books.
- You will need to be willing to enjoy the outdoors; in our Outdoor Adventures class, there is camping overnight and each student needs to participate in high ropes and low ropes courses. The high ropes course includes a tall wooden platform that the students had to climb, balance on a tightrope, and go zip-lining down a hill far above the ground.
- In the Children with Disabilities class, we volunteered at an elementary school in Farmville, and worked with the kids there.
- In our Physical Disabilities class, the students had to get around campus in a wheelchair for a day
- We volunteer to visit with a resident in a nursing home frequently for our Leisure and Aging class
- Get in the pool for Arthitics Aquatics class, and learn the different exercises to promote easy movement
#4 TR IS VERY VERSATILE. In the therapeutic recreation department at Longwood University, there are many different classes which help you to work with many different populations of people. If I had discovered this previously, I would have done my internships with many different facilities, working with a wide variety of people. Much of the learning that is done in therapeutic recreation comes in the act of DOING. Learning goes far beyond the classroom. The principles that you learn in the class need to be applied, and that makes for a full schedule. Not only will you have the class time, you will also have time to apply the learning, In our ‘Children with Disabilities’ class, we actually worked in an elementary school in Farmville.
#5 EXTRACURRICULARS ARE VERY IMPORTANT. Join the Therapeutic Recreation Organization, they are people in the major, who volunteer to go out and do service projects; we even went to a professor’s house in Farmville and helped rake leaves! (The professor has a bad back, and was unable to take on a task like that) Raking leaves does not seem like such a chore when you are with good friends! Volunteer whenever possible; a Special Olympics competition was held on the Longwood campus, where we volunteer to help. Camp Respite is a weekend that the students volunteer to stay in cabins with adults with disabilities to give the caregivers a weekend of ‘respite.’ Therapeutic Recreation is all about volunteering and helping the community with leisure experiences and having fun with many different populations of people.
It is very easy to stay in touch with some local TR majors, and keep conversations going with others through the magic of social media, attending some weddings of friends in the major, and going out on the town when they come by this area. Therapeutic Recreation may be the coolest and most fun major ever!