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The Dartmouth
June 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Passing the (First Year Trips) Torch

One writer talks to members of the Class of 2027 who are leading First Year Trips about welcoming the next freshman class to campus this fall.

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After meeting my First Year Trips leaders at the start of my freshman year, I wondered if I would ever feel as knowledgeable and settled at Dartmouth as they seemed to be. Now, as I look back at my fall term self, who felt utterly unprepared for college and living away from my family, it is remarkable how much more I feel like my Trip Leaders, who I looked up to not even a year ago. 

This shift has been made even more apparent by watching my peers prepare to lead the incoming Class of 2028 on the very same excursions we participated in during our first week at Dartmouth. My Trips experience was one of the most formative parts of New Student Orientation, one which taught me to fully embrace Dartmouth culture. My Trip Leaders not only provided me with a group to lean on when I returned to  campus, but helped me settle into an environment that had previously felt foreign. Now the Class of 2027 — along with the Classes of 2026 and 2025 — is training to continue this welcoming tradition for the incoming freshman class.  

However, doing so is no small commitment. 

Daphne Davies ’27, who is leading one of the moderate hiking Trips, explained that Trip Leaders must participate in “four training sessions” which each last “around two to four hours,” covering essentials from first aid to group dynamics and incident prevention. According to Davies, there is also Trip-specific training, which focuses more closely on the individual excursion each leader is heading. 

Beyond their spring or summer term preparation, Trip Leaders also face the additional complication of having to arrive on campus early, before  dorms even open. The “interim housing” offered by the College is often crowded, and many students end up sleeping on the floor, according to Davies.

Given all the work involved, what prompts already-busy students to commit so much of their time and effort to First Year Trips? Kate Adams ’27, who will be leading a less strenuous hiking Trip, said one reason she applied to be a Trip Leader is to give guidance to incoming freshmen, similar to the advice her Trip Leaders imparted on her. 

“Coming right off of freshman year, I feel like you have a lot of handy tips that are fresh in your mind from just going through the year,” Adams said. “I felt like there are a lot of things about freshman year that I wish I had known that I just didn’t because I [didn’t know] older people going in from my high school or town to give me advice.” 

Looking back, I would have been completely lost without the help I received from my own Trip Leader. Having an older student offer advice on how to navigate both Dartmouth’s culture and academics was invaluable to me and so many other freshmen over the years. Trips provided me with an immediate sense of community at Dartmouth and taught me how crucial it is to ask for advice from upperclassmen. Those experiences led many Trip Leaders to take charge this summer. 

“When orientation itself can feel so overwhelming, [First-Year] Trips was the part of orientation where I kind of started to feel myself loosen up a little bit,” Ava Weinrot ’27, who is leading a cabin camping Trip, said.

Davies echoed Weinrot’s sentiment, noting that her Trip Leaders’ “diversity of perspective” created a “supportive and friendly environment” that influenced the way she plans to lead her Trip. 

“They were all so welcoming … and willing to answer all questions within reason,” she said. “I definitely want to keep all of that in mind as I take on the role myself.”

While many Trip Leaders describe leading Trips as a fun experience, it is not one they take lightly. Students, some of whom are just a year older than the freshmen they’re leading, must shoulder the responsibility of keeping their group safe while creating an enjoyable introduction to Dartmouth. As Trip Leaders hope to make the transition to college easier for their assigned freshmen — or ‘tripees,’ as they’re known on Trips — there is also pressure to ensure events run smoothly. 

“I have some level of anxiety about if my group happens to be a group where an emergency occurs, like, ‘How am I going to deal with that?’” Weinrot said. “But I also think that there’s enough of a support network in terms of all the crew members and the first aid team.” 

Some incoming Trip Leaders, like Adams, are unsure they are yet equipped for every situation. Adams recognized that training for emergencies is “really important,” but she said the informational sessions “spent a lot of time on … low probability events” instead of more relevant situations, like leading a large group through strenuous, remote hiking terrain.

“I feel like we should have more training in actual wilderness environments,” Adams said. “The only hiking training we had was walking around Pine Park … so I don’t know if I feel fully trustworthy with 10 kids in the woods.”

Additionally, while Davies acknowledged that it’s impossible to be ready for every emergency situation, she jokingly admitted that, “I still don’t know what to do if I see a bear.”

The quintessential Dartmouth tradition of First Year Trips is made possible by students taking the helm to continue fostering positive experiences. These rising sophomores, leading their Trips a year after they themselves were tripees, are the living embodiments of how settled their freshmen peers will hopefully feel at college come next spring.

“If I could play any part in facilitating somebody’s transition to this school and making it easier and more fun or exciting in any way, that would make me super happy,” Davies said.