Voices of Trips: Chris O’Connell ’13

Note: This post is part of the “Voices of Trips” series, featuring the individual experiences and perspectives of current Dartmouth undergraduates regarding DOC First-Year Trips. Check out the introduction to the series here.

Realizing I Was Not Alone

Okay, so it might be self-indulgent to write about my own experience with DOC First-Year Trips since I manage and edit much of this blog, but I figured it would be a good place to start.

In high school, I was fortunate to have spent time in the outdoors.  I enjoy hiking, I’ve been backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, and one time in middle school, I went fly fishing.  Anyway, when I registered for DOC First-Year Trips and was assigned to a rock climbing trip, I was the least nervous about being outside for a few days.

My first-year trip at Moosilauke Ravine Lodge.

Instead, what petrified me before coming on my DOC Trip was feeling out of place, like I did not belong.  I came to Dartmouth not really knowing anyone, beside the few random students I had met at a local alumni event.  Even though I was excited for college and for a new part of my life to start, I was really stressed about fitting in on my trip, trying to make friends from the experience, and figuring out how stuff worked in this new place.

When you first arrive for Trips, the roughly 100 incoming first-year students gather on the lawn on Robinson Hall and conversation goes something like this:

-Hi, I’m Chris – I’m from Atlanta.  Yes, I realize I don’t have a southern accent. So weird, right?  I’m living in McLane. Yeah, it’s a double and I haven’t met my roommate yet. My favorite ice cream flavor is cookie dough, I like to swim, I am majoring in undecided . Oh and I’m looking forward to snow.

Don’t I sound so interesting?  For the first day, so many of my conversations with people were fleeting and awkward and as I went to sleep the first night, the difficulty of starting over in a new place sort of hit me.  I have never had any problems making friends or holding a conversation, but I realized that this whole starting-over-in-a-new-place was going to be hard. Like really hard.

”]I had done this before though.  In Georgia, I went to a high school pretty far away from where I lived, so I began 9thgrade in a similar position…not knowing anyone.  What was so hard back then was that I was the “new kid” among a class where everyone had known each other for years.  Nobody else could relate to my mixture of nervousness, self-consciousness, and excitement for high school.

The second day of my DOC Trip was way better though.  My trip leaders, Megan & Charlie, offered two very different takes on Dartmouth life and it was really helpful to grill them with questions about everything from surviving the winter to greek life to DDS (Dartmouth Dining Services).  I felt way more at ease with the other ‘13s on my trip and realized I had a lot of the same fears and uncertainties about Dartmouth as they did.  It seems sort of inconsequential now, but the moment we all started asking a ton of questions about picking classes, making friends, and finding extracurricular activities was when I realized that I was not the only one feeling insecure. It was a turning point…and made me feel so much better.

My trippee, Julia, and I getting ready to rock climb.

The rock climbing part of the trip came on day three and while it was cool to climb outdoors for the first time (& I realized that I am, in fact, not a very good climber), the activity itself was not the point.  We could have been watching grass grow for all I cared…the value I found in Trips was having the chance to realize that I was not alone in being a mix of nervous-excited-freaked-out-but-still-really-psyched to be at Dartmouth.

A few days later, we returned to campus and I still felt anxious and worried about being in a new place without close friends, BUT it was nice knowing I wasn’t the only one.  I think oftentimes, we all subconsciously (or maybe consciously, I don’t know) try to project the image that we’re comfortable & confident.  But I could not have felt further from that when I arrived at Robinson Hall.  DOC Trips allowed me (and my trippees) to put our guard down and realize we were all nervous…and that realization made all the difference.

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