Voices of Trips: Michelle Shankar ’12

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.

Creating a Community: One Trip Leader’s Perspective

As a trippee, my freshman year DOC Trip was a perfect opportunity to create a community before I even set foot on campus as a student. On the first day, I looked around at the eight people I’d been randomly assigned to hike with for five days, and I would never have thought, based on my first impressions of them, that they would play such an influential role in my Dartmouth experience.

Michelle Shankar '12, a geography major pursuing the pre-med track, is from Dayton, Maryland.

The most magical part of DOC Trips for me was that I could be exactly who I wanted to be without any preconceptions, labels, or attachments. We weren’t associated with any particular organization, friend group, or history, and that made it possible for people who seemed so different to find commonalities among themselves and connect with each other.

I became so close with my trip, all of whom I had nothing in common with except for a passion to learn and grow and excitement for this next chapter of our lives. There was literally nothing barring us from taking time and energy to get to know one another – after spending five days together without showering, we had nothing to hide.

I had never thought about how much this program really brings the entire Dartmouth community together until I participated as a Trip Leader. Each year, Dartmouth upperclassmen get SO EXCITED to introduce the incoming class to our community. I have never seen anything like it – hundreds of students devote days’ worth of their time to write applications, attend group dynamics and wilderness skills training, prepare for their trip, and to reach out to the freshmen as mentors and resources here on campus.

“Each year, Dartmouth upperclassmen get so excited to introduce the incoming class to our community…I have never seen anything like it…”

Each year, the DOC First-Year Trips program brings us together to appreciate what we love most about Dartmouth, rejuvenate our excitement about being in this beautiful place, and make ourselves available to the freshmen we interact with so that we can give back to a community that has given so much to us in our time here.

As a senior, Michelle (r) led a hiking DOC First-Year Trip.

Earlier this school year, a freshman on the DOC Trip I had led called me up to let me know that she had a particularly rough winter term, and she would really like to have the support and insight of an upper-class woman to help her to figure out her situation. I’m not sure who else she had been able to talk to, but I was glad to know that she felt comfortable coming to me for advice on such a personal matter.

I wanted to participate in DOC Trips so that I could shower my Trippees with enthusiasm and excitement for their four-year adventure, but I want just as much, if not more, be a part of their entire college experiences, and even beyond.

I could never have foreseen just how meaningful the DOC First-Year Trips program is for the Dartmouth community as I pulled onto campus for the first time. Each year I have been involved (both as a Trip Leader and support croo member) it has been one of the most meaningful and fulfilling experiences I’ve had. Some of the most valuable friendships, mentorships, and memories I’ve had in the last four years came from this program, and I know that I will carry them with me for the rest of my life.


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