Freshman Trips offer bonding with classmates, nature

by Nathan Yeo | 8/8/11 10:00pm

Alison Su '13 almost missed her Moderate Hiking freshman Dartmouth Outing Club Trip due to travel problems she encountered en route to Dartmouth from her home in Ann Arbor, Mich. Su's first flight was initially delayed, then cancelled. She proceeded to miss her connecting flight and then the last Greyhound bus out of Manchester. Already nervous about coming to Dartmouth, Su said she was in tears during her traveling nightmare.

"I ended up taking a taxi from Manchester, which is absurd, but I had to get here for my trip," she said. "When I got here, I was just so taken care of."

Other students helped her bring her two 50-pound bags to her room and then drove her to the athletic center to meet her tripees, she said.

"My group took me in right away even though I was late and got me caught up," she said. "I just felt very included right away. It was a wonderful feeling after just an awful day of travel."

Dartmouth Outing Club First-Year Trips serve as most students' first experience at the College. Students interviewed by The Dartmouth said that Trips were a great introduction to the school.

In particular, students said Trips were a good way to immediately meet new people.

"Being on a trip as a freshman is a lot of fun because you get to meet people from around campus that you might not necessarily otherwise meet through your activities or your classes," Cote Theriault '13 said. "My tripees are really close and they're still friends."

Theriault went on a Canoeing trip and led a Ropes Course trip this year over Strips, the sophomore Summer recreation of Trips.

"[Trips] give you a group that you can go to during your first week of Dartmouth," Theriault said. "Tripees are people that you are going to hang out with when trips are over. A lot of people don't realize it but you meet your really good friends even if they aren't your tripees, you meet them through your tripees."

Julia Hudnut-Beumler '13, unlike some students, had experience hiking with her family before she went on her freshman Rock Climbing trip. She said the friends she made while on her trip became her family.

"I may have been hiking at first without my family but I ended up developing my Dartmouth family over the course of the trip and that was really wonderful to have that support system immediately going in," she said.

Hudnut-Beumler said she is still close with her tripees, three of whom live together.

"A couple of my tripees and I try to get dinner about once a week," she said. "Every tripee I see, even if it's not in that core group, we're really friendly and every time you see each other you want to give them a big hug."

Hudnut-Beumler will lead a Harder Hiking trip in the fall.

Theriault said she felt Trips helped new students ease into Dartmouth.

"Trips are the sort of experience that makes you less on your guard a little bit," she said. "You are doing a lot of things that you wouldn't normally do, like not taking showers for four days or going to explore new places. I would say that the first day or two might be a little awkward, because you don't know anyone else and are new to the whole Dartmouth thing. Trips are a great way to get acquainted with Dartmouth before you even get on campus."

Hudnut-Beumler agreed that spending time in the outdoors with new people was a good introduction to life at the College.

"People in a sense become more vulnerable, but are more willing to share and let others in and create this new world for themselves because there [are] so many things that your Dartmouth experience can be," she said. "On trips, you are not at Dartmouth yet and you are still building up expectations, and I think everyone is really supportive of each other."

Su led a Cabin Camping trip last fall, on which she deliberately worked with her co-leader to make sure her tripees felt welcome, she said. Because one freshman had a broken foot and it was often raining, Su's trip mostly stayed in the cabin playing cards and word games.

"We had a lot of different kinds of people ranging from quiet, maybe not as outgoing, to varsity athletes very different people who may not interact normally," Su said.

While Su said she played a more reserved foil to her outgoing co-leader, she said she tried to reach out to her tripees.

"I think what I learned from my trip leaders was to put myself out there and share embarrassing stories, embarrassing facts, and things that made [tripees] feel like they could share anything they want with no judgment being passed," Su said. "That's kind of the atmosphere that my co-leader and I really tried to set."

Theriault said that she experienced some trepidation during her trip, but recommended students remember how many people share that emotion.

"I would say to just go with it and be open to what's going on and realize that everyone is as nervous as you are," she said. "I think if I realized that when I was on Trips, it would been 10 times better. I mean my trip was great, but sometimes it's hard to remember that everyone is new to it and you need to relax and have a fun time and let trips welcome you to Dartmouth."

By the end of Hudnut-Beumler's trip, she felt a close bond with other students and the College, she said.

"When you all end up at Moosilauke at the very end, you essentially feel like you are a part of this Dartmouth tradition that has gone on before anyone that's even there welcoming you has been there," she said. "The [Moosilauke Ravine Lodge] is so rustic and old and wonderful and you get there and know that this Dartmouth community is solid and strong and going to be there to support you forever."

Trips are a valuable experience for all students, and help to alleviate the fear that many have at beginning at the College, regardless of their confidence level, Hudnut-Beumler said.

Cassie Ryding '13, who went on an Easy Hiking trip her freshman year, said that Trips can present challenges for some students and was a bit "over the top."

"We had the same shelter as thru-hikers, which was a little bit uneasy for me. Overall it wasn't a bad experience, it just was a little much," she said. "I think it definitely presents a bit of a skewed view [of Dartmouth], especially when you get here. It's very overwhelming for a lot of kids, I think."

Ryding said she still remains close with her trippees, but added that many people do not become close with their trippees.

"My bad experience wasn't because of the kids on my trip, but some people I know had no one that they clicked with on their trip, which can be a really frightening way of coming into Dartmouth, thinking that I'm not like anyone here,'" she said.

Ryding said incoming freshman should try to enjoy trips and not take them too seriously.

"Try to enjoy it as much as you can, but don't see your trippees as the end-all, be-all' of friends and realize that there's a lot more to Dartmouth, people-wise," she said. "Everyone's not looking to go on a hike every weekend. It's a fun experience and I'd definitely recommend everyone do it, but don't worry about, Oh, if you don't have a great time on your trip, you won't like Dartmouth.' You will still love it."