By Sam Peshek, Texas A&M University Marketing & Communications
Fish Camp 2018 may be over, but the experience Travis Johnston helped create for this year’s class of incoming Aggies will last a lifetime.
Talk to Travis Johnston and it’s easy to understand how he fits the mold of Fish Camp head director at Texas A&M University.
He speaks with the clear, kind and energetic cadence one would come to expect from the person who oversees the introduction of 6,500 soon-to-be freshmen into what it means to be an Aggie at a school famous for its spirit and school pride.
What takes some explaining is how his infectious passion for Fish Camp is anchored in the tragedy of losing both of his parents as a college student.
In order to know and understand Travis Johnston, you need to know and understand Fish Camp.
‘A lonely experience’
Every year for the last 64 years, incoming Texas A&M freshmen have been invited to take part in the four-day orientation in East Texas where Aggies-to-be learn about Aggie traditions like Yell Practice, Silver Taps, Muster and learn about Texas A&M’s more than 1,000 student organizations.
By the time the event is finished, students will have built meaningful friendships with other freshmen and upperclassmen counselors, will have knowledge of how to get involved outside of classes at Texas A&M and be energized to begin classes in the fall semester.
The experience can be a culture shock for students of non-Aggie parents or a first-generation student like Johnston, a Victoria, Texas native, who registered in the summer of 2013 at the insistence of a friend from high school.
On Johnston’s first day of the camp he felt anxious, uncomfortable, overwhelmed, unsure of what all the jumping, stomping, yelling and clapping was about.
“I hated it,” Johnston said. “Having to be put in this new environment was a culture shock and I wasn’t open minded to it. But over the next day I got more comfortable and I was having a great time. I knew these were the people I wanted to surround myself with in college. Any fear I had about going to college was gone during the bus ride back.”
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