Moore: The Value of Trips

Dartmouth should find an alternative method to run Trips this fall.

by Chelsea Moore | 5/26/20 2:00am

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by Natalie Dameron / The Dartmouth

I’ve braved many “first days of school” in my life, but none gave me as much anxiety as I felt about the first day of college. Living with a random roommate and getting thrown into life on the other side of the country was daunting. 

However, I soon realized that “getting thrown” was far from the appropriate term for how Dartmouth facilitated this transition. 

After bidding teary-eyed farewells to my family, I found myself swept into a dance routine to “Everytime We Touch” with my new classmates outside of Robinson Hall. 

In 1935, Dartmouth founded an entirely student-run pre-orientation program: First-Year Trips. 

With the aim of easing the transition to college, the Dartmouth Outing Club created a five-day outdoor experience for all skill levels and backgrounds. Over 90 percent of incoming freshmen participate, and before classes even commence, Trips gives students an immediate support system. Trips is an integral and unique part of the Dartmouth experience, and to many, it turns out to be one of the highlights of their four years.

With the current trajectory of COVID-19, however, it’s hard to imagine the College will allow Trips to run as planned this year. But if we cancel Trips, not only will the traditional Trips experience be affected, but so too will the transitions made and relationships formed by the Class of 2024. To keep the spirit of Trips alive and help the ’24s transition to life at Dartmouth, the College must find an alternative Trips format that’s still observant of current coronavirus guidelines and social distancing measures. 

Dartmouth will not be able to perfectly recreate Trips this year, but there are ways we could mimic the outdoor experience and establish similar bonds while still being socially responsible. 

Depending on the severity of COVID-19 in the fall, there are a few routes that Dartmouth can take. The best-case scenario involves Hanover remaining open and accessible and allowing groups of 10 people or less to congregate. In this instance, there is a possibility for a watered-down version of Trips. 

The outdoors would remain a viable opportunity for Trips, as plenty of outdoor activities are safe, socially-distanced and plentiful around Dartmouth. Students could go camping in the Bema and the golf course, or use the Connecticut River for fishing and canoeing. 

Large group activities like dancing in front of Robinson Hall or massage trains at Mount Moosilauke would have to be sacrificed. In order to align with pandemic policy, Trips groups will most likely have to be limited to fewer people than usual. Thankfully, this change wouldn’t be too detrimental, since the most valuable part of trip bonding comes from small group interaction. If fall term remains on campus, trips could be interspersed through the first weekends of freshman fall. This would still ensure an opportunity for freshmen to establish relationships early on. 

To add the adventure aspect, trip leaders could create — for example — scavenger hunts around the Upper Valley for their trippees. Confining trips close to campus could reduce the risk for non-Dartmouth local residents and minimize the lodging and transportation required. Clues would be within hiking distance, and students would have to use teamwork and problem-solving skills to find them. This will also familiarize the freshmen with the Hanover geography, an important knowledge point for their next few years. Groups could utilize the ropes course on Oak Hill, hiking trails on Balch Hill or even the Green to host different challenges. Instead of gathering at the Moosilauke Lodge for the final night, the scavenger hunt could take students on a sunrise hike to a local summit, like Gile or Moose Mountain. 

The second route that Dartmouth could take accompanies the worst-case scenario — fall term going completely remote. In this circumstance, the outdoor element would have to be abandoned until it is safe to hold Trips in-person. In a remote format, Trips groups could be randomly generated instead of put together with students with similar wilderness experience, which would actually diversify the groups. Sessions could meet over Zoom for five consecutive days before fall classes begin. Upperclassmen trip leaders could lead games and challenges that are attainable from home to add daily adventure. This could include personal scavenger hunts, virtual karaoke, book clubs or Pictionary. Trip leaders could also utilize icebreakers like show and tell and two truths and a lie. This would still allow for freshmen to meet each other and bond before they later arrive on campus, when actual in-person Trips should still be conducted. 

Of course, these ideas in no way would completely compensate for the experience many of us know as Trips. But Trips are too special to cancel outright, and for the sake of the Class of 2024, they are worth trying to recreate.