Note: Most of this blog provides a voice for current students, trip leaders, and directorate members to share their perspective. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some thoughts from Dartmouth alumni on their own experience with DOC Trips. As a 77 year old program, Trips changes, grows, and evolves each year – but many of the same traditions and feelings remain. Enjoy!
I felt a lot of pressure as a freshman to immediately be in love with Dartmouth. Not only had my friends from home been calling me non-stop since they went to college weeks earlier than me with stories of drunken hilarity and new best friends, but once I got to campus all the other freshman around me seemed to be having the time of their lives.
I didn’t drink in high school and I remember my first time in a fraternity basement standing against the wall while crowds of people were packed into this smelly space and feeling pressure to smile, laugh, flip my hair, excitedly chat with people around me, and be intensely interested in the beer pong happening around me. I felt totally isolated and missed sitting on my best friend from home’s kitchen floor drinking tea and eating chocolate chips.
My first “real conversation” at Dartmouth was with a fellow ’11 who I’d met on DOC Trips – not on my trip but in my section. We met at the lodge (where each section regroups after their trip) and I inserted myself into his trip’s game of “Mafia” and we later would text each other during orientation and meet up for brunch or watermelon capture-the-flag on the green. I remember sitting on his dorm room floor and sharing stories and pictures of our best friends from home. For the first time I had a chance to bring my story into this new space and see my homesickness reflected on someone else’s face.
Four years later I sat around a campfire with fifteen other upperclassmen and listened to the fire crackle appreciatively to the life stories being shared. People spoke beautifully of times of celebration, of pain, of disappointment and hope. I once again felt my own isolation, despair, joy, and silliness reflected in the experiences and vignettes being offered to the group. It was a tender reminder that all of us experienced turmoil and loneliness at Dartmouth, along with pride, connection, and delight.
Throughout my four years at Dartmouth I came to count on DOC Trips to facilitate moments of connecting to one another like family. In an intentional community push at the beginning of each year, upperclassmen and freshman leave their well-worn social roles to meet new friends, forge new connections, and try new activities. Everyone is displaced from the routines of their life and dropped into in small tribes in the woods with the sole purpose of learning to know, make space for, and welcome one another.
There are silly games, gorgeous views, moments for introspection, and group belly laughs. Each year I experienced Trips differently, from being a trippee, to a trip leader, to being on a support croo, but each year there were moments where I and others could share a bit of our story, a bit of where we came from, and a bit of what made it hard for us to be in our own shoes here at Dartmouth. By sharing and honoring the common ways we all felt hurt, we could collectively feel hope and collectively heal.
Welcome to Dartmouth, class of 2016.
Karen graduated from Dartmouth in 2011 and is a project coordinator at Project H.O.M.E. – a non-profit social service agency for people experiencing homelessness – in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.