First-Year Trips welcomes 90% of incoming first-years with outdoor programming

For the first time since the pandemic, Trips included an overnight component and minimal public health restrictions.

by Aryanna Qusba | 9/13/22 5:05am

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Source: courtesy of brandon zhou '22

For the first time since 2019, the First-Year Trips program led incoming students through Dartmouth’s traditional outdoor orientation program with minimal COVID-19 restrictions. With four sections and a reinstated overnight component, the entirely student-run program ran smoothly, according to Trips volunteers. 

Gabi Rodriguez ’23, who served as a Trip Leader this year for the second time and was an Orientation Peer Leader in 2020, said she felt this year’s Trips program was particularly well-planned. 

“I'll give credit to all the Trip Leader Trainers in the directorate,” Rodriguez said. “This was by far one of the most organized years in terms of training for the Trip Leaders and trip itineraries.”

Over 90% of the Class of 2026 participated in 140 Trips from Sept. 1 to 7. The program was led by 280 trip leaders, 80 “Croo” members — volunteers who helped run the logistical, safety and equipment distribution components of Trips — and 19 students on the directorate team this year, according to First-Year Trips director Jack Kreisler ’22.  

First-Year Trips associate director Brandon Zhou ’22 said that organizing Trips entailed “thinking critically about what parts of Trips have worked well in the past and what parts can be reimagined.” Unlike previous years when some students returned home between Trips and New Student Orientation, this year the dates of the two programs coincided. All first-years remained on campus after completing their Trip. 

Leading a Trip on the program’s fourth and final section, Rodriguez said that her Trippees were “exhausted” from days of orientation programming, but after a night of rest, the cabin camping group was ready to adventure. Rodriguez and her co-leader were “able to get people revamped and excited.”

“It was incredible to see my Trippees push themselves out of their comfort zone in terms of camping and be willing to try new things and come out the other end really excited about it,” Rodriguez said. 

By downsizing the number of sections of Trips, there were also more incoming students in each group, according to Kreisler. To accommodate larger sections, the 2022 Trips program made use of both the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge and the Dartmouth Skiway Lodge.  

“I think one challenge we faced was how to have both the Lodge and Skiway Lodge spaces [be] a part of Trips, how to have both [be] meaningful and valuable and how to have a unified lodge experience split across two places,” Kreisler said. 

Vox Croo member George Stain ’23 said that although accommodating so many people at Moosilauke and the Ski Lodge proved “exhausting” at times for Croo members, the decision to host students at two lodge destinations helped to maintain the “essence” of Trips.

In terms of COVID-19 restrictions, Rodriguez said she felt that this year’s experience was most similar to her own Trip freshman year in 2019, prior to the pandemic. During the 2021 iteration of First-Year Trips, Trippees returned to campus to sleep each night. This year, participants spent two nights off-campus and a final night at either Moosilauke or the Skiway Lodge.

“[The overnight component] goes miles in terms of having people bond with their Trip Leaders and fellow Trippees and allowing them to experience the advice and the mentorship that we got to give,” Rodriguez said.

All Trips participants were required to complete a COVID-19 test prior to starting the program, and masks were required on charter buses during Trips. Otherwise, the programming looked similar to pre-pandemic years, according to Zhou.

“[Trips directorate] certainly put a lot of thought into COVID and the protocols that will keep people healthy and safe on trips,” Zhou said. “Masks on buses and testing before leaving were both precautions that we found were very helpful. But aside from that there aren’t too many differences between pre-COVID times and right now.” 

Hanover Croo member Nacho Gutierrez ’25 — whose Croo was responsible for organizing Trippees and Trip Leaders and distributing food and equipment — said that he appreciated being able to interact with first-years and other Trips volunteers. 

“I can’t think of any other college or university where I would get to say ‘hi’ to all of the incoming class; it is so unique to Dartmouth,” Gutierrez said. “Seeing groups return with their own anecdotes and their own jokes after watching them on the first day with their arms crossed acting timid and shy was incredibly rewarding as an H-Crooling.” 

Rodriguez added that this year's Trips were “exactly how Trips should be.”

“I think Trips this year was most similar to how my experience was freshman year, which is great,” Rodriguez said. “[This year’s Trips] was the best way to really get to experience everything after three years of hard work.”

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