Making the Best of It: Reflections on the Return of First-Year Trips
Even after some last minute changes, incoming students and program leaders alike celebrated the value of Trips.
For many of us over the past few months, the promise of fall 2021 felt like the light at the end of a long COVID-19 tunnel. With the beginning of fall term, we’ve seen the return of the majority of the student population to Hanover, as well the resumption of in-person classes. It feels like campus is overflowing with new faces and fresh energy, and one of the first experiences these new students had was participating in the Dartmouth Outing Club’s First-Year Trips program.
I still remember what an important introduction Trips was to my freshman experience, so when I had the opportunity to apply to be a leader this year, I jumped at the chance. Many of the upperclassmen I’ve spoken with have expressed similar sentiments.
Trip leader Jack Barksdale ’23 said that he chose to be a trip leader, in part, because of his own positive experience with Trips.
“I think it’s really important for people here to help newcomers establish their place early on,” Barksdale said. “It’s really difficult to do, and I had Trip leaders who helped me do that, so I felt the duty to pass it on.”
First-Year Trips is a heralded Dartmouth tradition, and while it was cancelled for the Class of 2024, it returned to welcome home the Class of 2025 this fall, albeit with a few significant changes, both temporary and permanent.
Saige Gitlin ’22 is the co-leader of Vox Croo, the safety and logistics staff for Trips. She said that there was a major last minute shift in the Trips model due to the ongoing dangers of COVID-19.
“We basically had to do the day trips model instead of the overnight model, which makes for a very different experience,” Gitlin said. “I think some of the really positive things that came out of Trips this year were that for one, in an increasingly negative COVID situation, we were able to make an accommodation that preserved all of the key elements of Trips.”
According to Gitlin, First-Year Trips 2021 centered on three day trips: a day in Hanover spent with H-Croo, a day at the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge or the Skiway Lodge with Lodj Croo and an “adventure day,” when each trip did an outdoor activity pertaining to their trip type. Students slept in their dorm rooms instead of camping out in nature and ate some meals in the Class of 1953 Commons instead of snacking on corn nuts and Cabot cheese, but the general activities stayed in line with the long tradition of First-Year Trips.
Reflecting on this year’s setup, Barksdale said he was initially hesitant about the format change.
“I was disappointed at first, and then I saw how hard the organizers were working to make it happen,” Barksdale said. “What actually got rid of the disappointment was at the end, when I realized that the experience was essentially the same — it’s about being outdoors, but it’s more about being in intimate settings with your group.”
Trip leader Sophie Kodak ’23 echoed Gitlin’s and Barksdale’s sentiments, acknowledging that while the format was modified, she felt that the most essential parts of the Trips experience were kept intact.
“It was just really interesting to see how the spirit of Trips was the same even though the execution looked really different,” Kodak said. “I think it was still successful in making the ’25s feel comfortable and welcome, even if it wasn’t the same nostalgic experience for the ’23s and ’22s. I also think it was great that the ’24s got to be involved since they will never have Trips of their own.”
Additionally, Barksdale said that while Trips is often seen as a chance for the older generation of Dartmouth students to pass on wisdom to newcomers, it also presents an opportunity for leaders to reflect on their time at the College. While considering what advice to give to the ’25s, Barksdale had to look back on his experiences and think about what he would have done differently.
“My big takeaway was that [Trips] seems like a time where you’re passing on knowledge to these kids, but it was also a really good way for me to reflect on my time at Dartmouth halfway through,” Barksdale said. “I realized that there are a lot of things I’ve learned in my two years here that I think are important to pass on.”