On Aug. 27, I walked into King 123 expecting to interview the First Year Experience class about zombies. Instead, I was sworn to secrecy, covered in fake blood and helped force 17 first-year students into a “safe house” upstairs.
“The first-year students who are in Heather Hayton’s (FYS) are under the impression they’re doing a mapping assignment in which they have to map out the campus to prepare for a zombie apocalypse,” said sophomore Catherine Thompson.
“What they don’t know is that this is really going to be an event where they’re going to be surprise attacked by zombies and have to work together in various teamwork challenges in order to survive the night.”
This is Hayton’s third year doing this activity with a group of students. Several students who participated in this activity four years ago came back to do it again.
“The idea is that the people playing zombies are going to force the first-years to work together and problem solve the way they would actually have to do in a real life stress situation,” said Suzanne Farmer ’16, a member of Hayton’s first zombie FYS.
“They’re going to have to learn firsthand about some of the ethics involved in stuff like this.”
After getting chased from Dana Hall to King Hall, the students waited in a “safe house” on the second floor.
“We were going on a zombie walk, and then real zombies came after us, so now we’re hiding out in King 202, trying not to die,” said first-year Margaret Brown. “They just came from a distance, and we were told this was our safe space, so we just ran, and now they’re apparently coming. It’s a little scary.”
The stakes were not just high in the game. If the students were attacked by a zombie, or if one of the actors put a bloody handprint anywhere on their body, they would fail the assignment.
“Even though I’m not a good runner, I’m going to try to stay alive,” said first-year Berenice Fuentes-Juarez. “It’s been one week at Guilford, and a lot of strange things are happening right now.”
Soon after the students found the “safe house,” they realized they would have to work together to escape, strategize and above all, survive.
During this time, they were harassed by several “zombies.”
“We threw a fellow zombie in a trash can and rolled him to the door,” said Ian Wiesenberg ’16, who was part of Hayton’s first zombie FYS with Farmer. “He popped up and scared them, kind of like a Jack in the Box.”
Although the students got the pizza that was waiting for them downstairs, they soon found out that their “safe house” was going down. Now, they had to make their way to the counseling center.
The game had to be called early due to one of the “zombies” getting injured, but many of the students, first-years or zombie actors, still agree it was an unforgettable night.
“My favorite part was pretending to be a zombie,” said senior Meredith Hudson. “The moan is hard to get. The guttural moan is a skill.”
Several of the volunteers share an interest in the undead.
“I was definitely into the zombie craze when it was at its peak a couple years ago,” said senior Taryn McFadden. “I’ve already lost my voice from trying to sound like a zombie.”
Before the class departed for the night, Hayton shared a few observations with her students.
“When we watch these shows and read these books (about zombies), we’re going to think we’re better than those characters, and that would never happen to us, but it did tonight,” said Hayton. “It happened to us. We became every stereotype of apocalyptic literature we’re going to read this semester … That’s part of what it means to be human.
“You’re not going to remember one more party you could’ve gone to … (but) you will remember that, in your first week on campus, you ran around and chased each other, got really stressed out, angry at one another, some guy cut his arm open, and the game was called. You’re going to remember this.”