Not every college kid chooses to get wild on the Florida coast at this time of year – in fact, a group of High Point University students just spent their 2023 spring break at the Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert in Abiquiu, New Mexico.

Even more incredible, the college students went without their phones for days.

While on the trip, students couldn’t use their phones due to a lack of cell service in the remote area of the state. According to those on the trip, that allowed them to be more present, and it let them enjoy the environment and grow deeper in their faith.

As part of the university’s annual Spring Pilgrimage, the students spent their time learning more about living out faith and spiritual transformation.

The students were accompanied by Rev. Dr. Preston Davis, minister to the university, as well as Rev. Dr. Chris Franks, an associate professor of religion and philosophy.

John Liebkemann, a junior business administration major from Greensboro, said he found the experience eye-opening.

“The Spring Pilgrimage was important to me because it allowed me a chance to grow in my faith in a situation and experience that I was unaccustomed to,” he said. “Growing up in a non-denominational household, I had never been exposed to many of the aspects of Benedictine living.”

He added that he had formed close friendships with others who were on the trip. “I am so thankful to the Chapel office and High Point University for facilitating this amazing opportunity,” Liebkemann said.

According to Franks, Benedictine monks are devoted to the Rule of Benedict, which includes praying seven times a day, starting at 4 a.m., and also working and sharing life together.

That’s quite a contrast to the many college students across the country who usually are just getting to bed around 4 a.m. during spring break.

In New Mexico, the High Point University students learned that the entire life of a monk is devoted to St. Paul’s mission to pray without ceasing.

“We say that the pilgrimages are outward journeys that facilitate inward journeys,” Franks said. “It’s exciting to see students embracing the challenge of joining with monks from all over the world in a way of prayer that was unfamiliar to many of them. It provoked spiritual curiosity, taught them new things about themselves and developed new appreciation for diverse ways of living their faith, all while deepening relationships among our group in a profound way.”

Students and faculty on the trip helped the monks during their work period every day with the chores such as cleaning common spaces in the guest house and helping prepare rooms for new guests.

They also hiked various trails every day and explored downtown Santa Fe.

The Spring Pilgrimage Program is supported by contributions from High Point University families, who make opportunities like these available to students at little to no cost.

Some previous pilgrimages have taken students to Haiti; New York City, New York; Houston, Texas; Camino de Santiago de Compostela, Spain as well as and Asheville.