Voices of Trips: Natalie Colaneri ’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.

Doing the Dartmouth Thing…

Four years ago, I remember feeling a big knot in my stomach as my bus pulled up in front of Robinson Hall for DOC First-Year Trips. I had made friendly conversation with the people sitting around me on the bus, but I still felt nervous about being away from home for the first time. When my Dad dropped me off for the bus that morning, he reminded me that I could always come home and go to a local college if I didn’t like Dartmouth. I was repeating that to myself when crazy people with colorful hair suddenly stormed into our bus, shouting how excited they were that we had arrived.

Natalie Colaneri ’12 is a biology major from Long Island, New York.

We were all herded off of the bus, and most of us stood around feeling uncomfortable while these upperclassmen danced around us, flailing their arms and trying to get us to join in the fun. It was awkward. I don’t remember much about that afternoon except a lot of awkwardness.

Later on, we were divided up to meet with our trippees; I was on the Nature Painting trip. I really wanted to get Horseback Riding, but since I was accepted to Dartmouth off of the waitlist, most trips were already full by that point. Nature Painting seemed like a safer bet over a tough hiking trip, and I thought a few days in the wood paining would be a more relaxing option.

The people on my trip were very mixed in terms of their outdoors/athletic experience.  Several people came right out and said that they did not choose Nature Painting as their first choice trip. My trip had someone who had took a gap year to hike the Adirondack Mountains, a varsity lacrosse recruit, and only one person who had actually taken art classes before.  Things were not looking too promising…

During the trip, the athletic discrepancy on our trip became even more evident. After playing charades for a few hours the first day, it was decided that we would go on a small day-hike the next day. We had walked maybe five minutes when someone in my group asked if we could turn around because she was tired. The trip leaders decided we would go back and play charades some more. I could tell that some people wanted to actually hike during their trip, but nobody complained when we turned back. I remember thinking it was nice how everyone compromised so that this girl could have a good experience on the trip. And I was secretly glad we went back to the cabin, even though I never said so, because I wanted to play charades instead of hike too.

Natalie went on a Nature Paining trip her freshmen year.

I didn’t have much time to reflect on (or worry about) going to Dartmouth until nighttime because we were really occupied during the day. I remember my thoughts swirling around while I tried to fall asleep; I was in a bunk bed in a room with four other people (and one person snoring really loudly). One of my big fears about being away from home was that I would feel lonely. But being in that room with the other Dartmouth students that night, I really didn’t feel lonely at all. In fact, I wanted more alone time so I wouldn’t have to hear my trippee snoring!

But in all seriousness, DOC First-Year Trips really showed me that I wouldn’t feel completely alone at Dartmouth. While I didn’t connect with every single person I met in those five days, I felt like people were friendly enough, and most importantly, the people around me made me feel safe being in the middle of the wilderness. I figured I would be okay being on campus, in civilization again.

Now four years later, I still say hi to all my trippees, and I was roommates with one of them for three terms as an upperclassman. While I don’t usually pinpoint my DOC Trip as being a defining moment in my Dartmouth experience, in retrospect I feel that it was an important experience in that it showed me I could do the Dartmouth thing and be okay.

“…DOC Trips was an important experience in that it showed me I  could do the Dartmouth thing and be okay…”

So 16s, go on a DOC First-Year Trip with an open mind and see what it’s like. You might not meet your best friends on it, but I think you will be exposed to a small slice of the community at Dartmouth: one that cares about you, supports you, and makes you feel like you’re not alone.

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