Voices of Trips: Michael Perlstein ’14

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.

Out Of My League

I spent a lot of time camping, hiking, and generally being outdoors as I was growing up, so my First-Year DOC Trip turned out to be the part of Dartmouth that I was least nervous about. It was something I was good at, an activity that made me feel comfortable. So when I showed up in Hanover, I was ready to go – I really just wanted to get to the woods… but not for the reason I had initially thought.

Michael Perlstein, a '14 from California, is the Sustainability Intern for the DOC First-Year Trips Program.

Up until the moment I stepped on to the lawn of Robinson Hall (where DOC Trips begin), I wanted to be camping. But the second I arrived, I suddenly just wanted to be away from all these people. There were dozens of students swarming around, shaking hands, introducing themselves, lounging in the sun, trying to figure out who else was on their Trip and playing a game called ‘ninja’ (you’ll learn to love it).

I was out of my league.  Everyone seemed to be so comfortable; they were making friends without breaking a sweat while I stood there next to my backpack not knowing a single person on campus — completely overwhelmed and unsure where to begin.

What I didn’t realize — and even with this warning you may not realize until too late — was that by and large, it was just a show that every other freshmen was putting on. No matter how nervous you are about meeting new people or going into the wilderness, every other person around you is feeling the same way. And everyone is just as desperate as I was to meet new friends and just have someone to talk to.

So go say hi, introduce yourself, ask where your new friend is from, and what Trip they are on. Regardless of whether this person becomes your best friend or you never hang out again, I guarantee that when you pass each other in ’53 Commons (our main dining hall) and give that wave of acknowledgment you will both think, “That was the first person I ever met at Dartmouth.”

Michael (3rd from right) posing with his freshmen DOC Trip.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter how close you become to the people you meet that first hour on the lawn of Robinson Hall because from there, you meet your Tripees and Trip Leaders. Everyone has a different experience with their group, so the only review I can give of this program is my own experience, and that is that last night — 18 months after we first met — I had dinner with my trippee. We are still as close as we were the day we came out of the woods together.

There should be no question in your mind. Even if you are feeling nervous, go on a DOC First-Year Trip. Period.

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