One of the storied traditions for graduate students at Duke University is a yearly event called Campout. It lasts for a weekend, usually in September, and the reason for it is to win the most coveted prize at Duke: basketball tickets.

Unlike many other students here, I’m not currently involved in a love affair with Duke’s basketball team or Coach K. I went to the University of Arizona for undergrad, so my allegiances in terms of college sports are set with my beloved Wildcats. However, I do love basketball and appreciate the contributions that Duke has made to the college game. I’ve always wanted to check out a few games at Cameron (especially Duke-UNC, which I have always believed to be the greatest rivalry in college basketball), so participating in Campout was a no brainer for me. Oh, and there are a few thousand people at Campout so I thought it would be a good time regardless. I was definitely in.

Campout was the weekend of September 16. Being from New York and assuming it wouldn’t be cold here until November, I put on my shorts and headed out for class on that day and BOOM. I thought to myself “Did I just enter a refrigerator? What is this temperature?” I didn’t know when I registered to go to Duke that the weather would be like it is in New Hampshire.

Okay, so this is a bit of an exaggeration. It was 60 degrees, but compared to the 80 degree days we had been experiencing for a while, it was a bit of a shocker.

As for Campout, there were two ways to spend it. Some people (like the MMSers) decided to get a bunch of tents and camp out on the lawn. This was my preference, as I thought it would be a good time. Other people rented RVs and U-Hauls and kept it more “luxurious” over the weekend, which looking back, was probably very smart on their part.

Anyway, Campout started that night at 7:00 with some rain. To win basketball tickets, you had to run to the check-in booth every time the sirens went off. It went something like this (from a different year, but same idea): YouTube video.

Miss only one check-in during the weekend and you are entered into a lottery, where the prize is writing Duke a $200 check and getting season basketball tickets in return. Sound easy, right?

WRONG. The sirens do not operate to accommodate one’s sleep schedule. They would go off multiple times in the middle of the night. On the first night, I had to wake up 3 times to check-in. They sometimes went off within 10 minutes of each other. Many were eliminated in the process, and therefore, lost their shot of winning Duke basketball tickets. Others showed up planning to compete, but were deterred by the frigid 60 degree weather and rain.

The weekend was awesome. It was just hanging out, being outside, getting to know lots of other people (after all, it’s an event for all the grad students at Duke, and people are there from every school), and stopping everything you do every time you hear a siren to run to check-in. Oh, and as for those pesky check-ins …

I did it! I made every check-in, although one time needed to be woken up by someone else to make it. After making check-ins and hanging out at the camp site all weekend, Sunday morning came, and we received our results.

Before the final results, I pooled in with two other people, agreeing to split our basketball tickets down the line with everyone in our group, a safe choice as it would increase all of our chances of being able to get to some games (and since there are certain games that everyone wants tickets for, like UNC, the agreement is that there would be a draft, with winners getting first pick).

Anyway, the wait in line that Sunday morning was nerve racking. After putting a weekend’s worth of effort into not sleeping and running towards check-ins, it was time to find out our results. And I won! This means I got a nice yellow card which gives me access to every single Duke home basketball game, a prize that I know I’m very lucky to have.

Unfortunately, the two others in my pool did not win, but all is good in the world: I get to go to a third of the basketball games, and since I won the pool, I get the number 1 pick, which means I’ll be going to the UNC game. I’m already excited for March 3 and having the chance to watch a game that so many could only dream of going to (or scalp a ticket for if they were loaded, the cheapest one on Stubhub is currently $999).

Anyway, I must say Campout is one of the great traditions of this school, and was probably the most fun I’ve had here. If you come to Duke, do Campout!