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Elizabeth Ochoa

For many people, experiencing the outdoors brings a sense of connection to the self and to others. For others, it is music that is the tool for finding oneself and connecting to a community. For Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management major Elizabeth Ochoa, it is both.   

“I picked Penn State because of the endless opportunities,” said Ochoa. “I took BI SCI 003 my freshman year and fell in love with learning about the natural world. I was also excited because Penn State also has a great house show scene.” Music and the outdoors; connecting to ourselves and connecting to each other.  

Originally from Bergen County, NJ, Liz visited Penn State at the encouragement of family who live in Pennsylvania. She arrived at University Park as an undecided major. “I loved the campus and the feel when I got here. I thought about COMM because it also has a lot of career paths. I liked event planning so I also considered The School of Hospitality Management. I eventually came to RPTM because it offers me both event planning and careers in the outdoors.”

Elizabeth Ochoa Drumming

And, she continued to play music. She participated in Penn State’s Pep Band playing at sporting events across campus. As a drummer, she has also played in several bands that entertain in the vibrant house show circuit within the State College music scene. Hard rock. Alternative genres. People getting together to experience music in an intimate environment that larger concert venues can’t or don’t offer. An opportunity for connection.

Liz also used her time at Penn State to get outside. She enrolled in RPTM’s Outdoor Recreation tract. She served as both a Counselor and Learning Group Leader at Outdoor School, Penn State’s residential outdoor learning experience for 5th grade students through Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center. She participated in the RPTM Outdoor Recreation Consortium which includes a five (5) day trip to the Great Smokey Mountains. In the Spring of 2022, she completed the Student Engagement and Experiential Discovery Semester (SEED) at Shaver’s Creek which is an embedded 12-credit learning opportunity in which all courses and learning takes place off campus – mostly in the outdoors.

“SEED was amazing,” said Liz. “It was like a study abroad but in our backyard. The community they created for us was amazing. I loved being outside and getting the hands-on experience teaching in the outdoors.”

Elizabeth Ochoa on Boat

After seeing a posting in the RPTM weekly digest of available internships and summer jobs, Liz applied for a summer position working at Echo Hill Camp on the Chesapeake Bay on the Eastern Shore of Maryland during the summer after junior year. Echo Hill offers overnight camp programs and special trips for children ages 7-16 including residential camps, extended day sailing and boating camps, as well as adventure camps. 

“My favorite camp last year was Heart Camp,” she shared. “This camp was organized for children who have had heart or lung transplants. It is co-sponsored by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).  It was so great seeing those kids get outside.”

Liz returned to Echo Hill this year in an escalated role to complete RPTM 495A (12-credit internship) to meet the degree requirements. She will graduate in August of 2023! She’s not sure what path she will take, but the outdoors and music will undoubtedly be a part of her future.