First-Year Trips participants give program high marks despite delays and restructuring

Just two days before Trips began, the program’s directorate overhauled programming following COVID-19 outbreaks at peer institutions and delays in the College’s testing program.

by Jacob Strier | 9/16/21 5:10am

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At least 90% of the Class of 2025 participated in First-Year Trips.

by Arielle Beak / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

The Class of 2025 participated in an adjusted Dartmouth Outing Club First-Year Trips program held in two sections between Sept. 5 and Sept. 9, returning to the dorms each night instead of camping out due to COVID-19 concerns. 

At least 90% of the Class of 2025 and over 300 student volunteers participated, according to First-Year Trips director Kellen Appleton ’20. Appleton said that the directorate managed to re-work programming in just 36 hours after the College’s Sept. 1 decision to have students return to campus each night, but had to delay the entire program by a day. High COVID-19 caseloads among students at peer institutions and delays in Dartmouth’s COVID-19 testing program contributed to the decision, Appleton added. 

Appleton clarified that the last-minute decision to restructure Trips was made by the student leadership of First-Year Trips in collaboration with outdoor programs director Paul Teplitz and other administrators. The ultimate goal, Appleton said, was to provide incoming students the best possible experience without the interruption of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Even before the last-minute changes, Trips was condensed from its usual programming in an effort to fit “the College’s calendar more nicely and in a [COVID-19] friendly way,” Appleton said. Instead of the usual 10 sections spread out from the end of August to early September, Trips were condensed into two sections, something Appleton called a “daunting challenge.”

Michelle Kim ’22, who led a white-water kayaking trip, said that she was sad when she first found out that First-Year Trips would be delayed and modified into day trips.

“We were all really disappointed because we all felt that at night is when a lot of bonding happens with our triplings,” Kim said. She added that she felt “overwhelmed and confused” about the training for trip leaders this year. 

“I feel like there wasn’t super clear communication all the time about what was happening,” she said.

The First-Year Trips directorate lacked the capacity to remove participants from the field should they show a positive test result, according to Appleton, who said that such removals would have led to a “severe disruption” to the program. Under the modified program, Appleton noted that there were few positive test results by the end of Trips, aside from a handful of student volunteers in Hanover and incoming students. 

Appleton declined to provide specific numbers, but she said that the Dartmouth College Health Service consulted with the First-Year Trips directorate and managed the outbreak with little disruption to overall programming. 

The First-Year Trips directorate is broken down into various crews, or “croos.” Hanover crew — or “H-Croo” — captain Brandon Zhou ’22 called the execution of the last-minute changes a “logistical feat,” and touted the accomplishments of his fellow directorate in creating a “successful program.” 

The adjusted First-Year Trips program was broken down into a day in Hanover, a day at either the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge or the Dartmouth Skiway Lodge and a day participating in an “adventure” in line with each trip’s specific theme, according to Appleton. 

For Maya Resnick ’25, the adventure day consisted of canoeing, tanning by the water and playing card games with her fellow “cabin camping” trip members. Resnick said that the fun continued into the evening despite returning to the dorms, including one night spent playing Dartmouth-themed Pictionary with others on her floor until 2 a.m. 

Despite feeling overwhelmed the first day, Resnick said that her First-Year Trips group served as a “support blanket.” She added that the adjustment of the program had multiple benefits, like meeting fellow freshmen outside of her trip. 

“It was nice to get to know my roommate a bit more,” Resnick said. “It was a best of both worlds situation — I had the opportunity to meet other ’25s.” 

For Gwendolyn Roland ’25, participating in First-Year Trips allowed her to gravitate toward people she may not have met otherwise. On her adventure day, her performing arts-themed trip went to a cabin to play games and enjoy the outdoors through a hike, she said. Roland’s trip leaders then pranked the group by instructing them to devise a new dance.

Roland’s trip leader, Samantha Palermo ’24, called the prank the “best part of the entire trip.” 

“All the trippees worked together really well, stepping up and contributing,” she said. “They performed the whole dance — it was so cute.” 

Since Palermo was unable to experience First-Year Trips herself due to the cancellation of Trips in 2020, she said that experiencing the program for the first time proved to be “so much fun.” 

Climbing croo member Katie Gregoire ’23 also helped to orchestrate fun “raids” on climbing Trips’ participants, which they characterized as “bonding experiences.” In one such raid, climbing croo members would pretend to sword fight while suspended on the rock wall as First-Year Trips groups arrived, Gregoire said.

“I think it achieved the final goal of Trips: finding a community of people before classes actually start,” Gregoire said. 

Back in Hanover, where incoming students spent a day with their respective Trips, Zhou said most traditions remained in place. According to Zhou, the dance medley, scheduled chats with upperclassmen and outdoor cooking on the golf course allowed students from different backgrounds and comfort levels to have fun. 

At both Moosilauke Ravine Lodge and the Dartmouth Skiway, Lodge traditions were maintained, according to Appleton, including homemade communal meals. 

Rohan Kartha ’25 reflected fondly on his Lodge day, saying that he “appreciated the effort” by fellow Dartmouth students to make him feel welcome. 

“There is no one else from my school or region here,” Kartha said. “I felt alone when I got here, but I formed a small community with people on my Trip.” 

Resnick said that upon her arrival to the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, she ran through a human tunnel of costumed upperclassmen before learning dances and socializing with other incoming students. 

The logistical changes to First-Year Trips led to some hiccups, including a multiple-hour wait for buses to the Lodge, Palermo said. 

In addition to some “confusion” about buses and updated itineraries, Appleton said that the change to housing in Hanover led to some other logistical issues. 

“We let the housing office know [about the new Trips model] as soon as possible, essentially asking them to move up the move-in dates for 400 students by four or five days,” Appleton said. “We were able to give proper interim housing in residence halls for almost every student involved in First-Year Trips.”

Appleton said that Leverone Field House was maintained as a space for some participants to sleep, particularly those who did not have on-campus housing for fall term and could not be accommodated with interim housing. 

Additionally, Appleton said that large amounts of leftover food ordered from the Hanover Co-op before the changes to the program were donated to the Upper Valley Haven, a local food pantry. 

Looking back on First-Year Trips, Appleton said that she feared the logistical challenges of a re-organized program and less buy-in by participants who may have expected a different experience. For the most part, Appleton said, the fears were unfounded. 

“The vast majority of people I have talked to, both trip leaders and incoming students, really valued it,” Appleton said. “People said it was not the experience they expected, but it was still a great way to meet each other.” 

Lorraine Liu contributed reporting. 

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