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(NECN: Anya Huneke, VT) - The weather in Vermont has been pretty mild this week, which is fortunate for some Champlain College students spending their nights outside. But, they also know it's not the norm, as they try to get a sense of what it's like to be homeless, through a program called "Tent City." Four days into her stay in tent city... Samantha Thatcher is a bit the worse for wear. Samantha ThatcherFreshman, Champlain College "I was healthy on Monday when I started out..." The Champlain College freshman has been spending her nights in a sleeping bag on the college green since then. On a cardboard mattress... Or in a tent. To get a better sense of what many other people go through every day. Samantha "You start to realize and appreciate what you have. It sounds cliche- but it's so true." Dozens of students at Champlain College - in Burlington, Vermont - are participating in the school's fifth 'tent city'-- a nationwide effort to raise awareness about homelessness. Students forgo their warm beds and basic amenities for some or all of the week. Joe "For the most part, this would be the exact opposite of average college life." And sleep under the stars. Or, quite often- in the rain, the snow, or the frigid temperatures. Joe MesterJr., Champlain College "Even after that first night- where you only sleep an hour, then you're up for 2, sleep for half an hour, up again... the message gets through that some people have to deal with this on a daily basis." Sleeping outside is only part of it-- though clearly the most visual part. Students also eat soup-kitchen-style meals... and are asked to give up their cell phones, laptops, and I-pods for the week. Joe "I personally live off my cellphone/blakberry... so not to have it for a week is A. really nice... and B. you really start to appreciate how it helped and kept you organized." Throughout the week, students have collected money for COTS, or the Committee on Temporary Shelter- which has seen an increase in clients this year. Ashley GeorgeCC Ctr. for Svc.& Civic Engagement "Not only folks without homes, but those really on the edge- that number has increased dramatically." Senior Kaitlin Elias - now in her fourth year of tent city - says she has started volunteering at an organization for homeless teens- helping a population that often goes unnoticed. Kaitlyn EliasSr., Champlain College "It's easy for the homeless population to be out of sight, out of mind." Here- it's in plain sight... Not the real thing, but a taste of it- which these students now know is all they ever want to have.