The 1,300 NIU students who took the Orange Bowl Student Fan Bus trip began arriving back in DeKalb shortly before noon Thursday, still glowing from an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives.
“It was awesome – probably the best experience I ever had,” said Chelsie Bram, a nursing major from Buffalo Grove. “I feel like everybody won. It was a lot of fun.”
“New Year’s Eve, the football game, front row seats, cheering on our team – and we played great. Best trip I ever took,” Szlembarski said.
“It was so much fun,” he added. “I met a lot of new people, and I know we’re going to continue to be friends throughout the rest of my years of college.”
The experience was especially memorable for Anthony Wood and Rachel Sevik.
The two had been dating for a long time, but couldn’t arrange to get on the same bus. That was more than a little disappointing, considering that Wood had stashed an engagement ring in his suitcase.
Understandably excited, he told some of his traveling companions of his plans for a New Year’s Eve proposal on the beach. He even let someone film the ring, and the video popped up on YouTube, nearly blowing the surprise.
“She didn’t find out, so it all worked out okay,” said Wood, who graduated in December with a degree in economics.
For the record, Sevik, who also graduated in December with a degree in nursing, said yes.
Dain Gotto, assistant director for the Campus Activities Board and lead trip adviser, admits he had nightmares before departing DeKalb, thinking about all the potential glitches.
In the end, though, the Orange Bowl Student Fan Bus trip was a smooth ride and huge success.
“I have not talked with a single student who was disappointed with the trip,” Gotto said. “They’ve all talked about what a great experience they had at the Orange Bowl. Part of my job is to build a sense of community among students, and this was an incredible vehicle to do just that. Students in each bus might have started out as strangers, but now they have 48 new friends.”
The same could be said for the 52 trip advisers.
“We all made new friends and enjoyed seeing our students come together to cheer on the Huskies,” Gotto said, adding that trip advisers gained an even better appreciation for the university and its students.
“The students were great Huskies,” said trip adviser Jocelyn Santana, who serves as manager of the NIU Career Resource Center. “They represented us with a lot of pride.”