Note: This post is part of the “Voices of Trips” series, which will provide perspectives and stories from upperclassmen’s own experiences with Trips. To learn more about our great group of trip leaders, check out the introduction to the blog’s series here.
We are here for you.
The collar of my North Face was soaked. An uncomfortable kind of wet that urgently asked for a change of clothes. The only problem was that we were about a mile or so into the five-mile hike to our cabin. I had to last through at least two more miles before feeling justified taking a break. This was my first time in a New England forest and the moisture in the air made my body feel like I had a pot of boiling water in front of me. I had hiked before but never like this: with the sun beating on my neck as my once-comfortable fleece became my personal straitjacket and the load on my shoulders, which had gained an uncomfortable ten pounds the night before, dragged me down – I regretted packing four cotton shirts, but I quickly rationalized I would want to change into them once we took a break. I caught Katelyn, one of my trip leaders, glancing at me out of the corner of her eye as she looked to Michael, her co-leader, and suggested we take a break. Our eyes met again and I smiled at her. She smiled back. I dropped my pack and stripped the straitjacket. I felt liberated again. My arms could breathe and I could complete the rest of our hike up to Alder Brooke, a cabin in the Second College Grant.
Along the way, Katelyn made small talk, probing the inner depths of my person with questions like “where are you from?”, “what’s home like?”, “are you a photographer?” The more questions she asked, the more quickly time passed, the more the outer layers of my person fell. Before I knew it we had arrived to our cabin, and my shield was lowered. During the remainder of our stay at the Second College Grant, Katelyn and Michael made sure I was properly accommodated in whatever way possible. They were conscious of how much I tried not to fall behind on our hike or stick out for being the only Californian in a trip full of New Englanders. Their warm and charismatic personalities gained my trust and friendship.
To this day, I look back at memories of my first-year trip with a smile because my trip leaders made such a visible effort to make me feel welcomed at Dartmouth. Katelyn and Michael are the reason why I chose to lead a trip last year and again this year. Their dedication to making trips so fun and comfortable is worth remembering, and it speaks volumes of the effort and time that is put into shaping Trips as a remarkable experience in most students’ time at the College. What has made Katelyn and Michael such memorable people in my life, moreover, is their continued presence in my time at Dartmouth. Even after Trips, Katelyn and Michael have put in countless hours to be a part of my life in a variety of ways like checking in on me and my trippees throughout the year or being willing to help out in whatever ways they can – even two years after our trip.
Katelyn and Michael are not unique to the trips program. In fact, many trip leaders lead trips because they want to be a part of a student’s the transition into college – because their respective trip leaders also affected them in positive ways. Trip leaders are often the first real connection most incoming students have to Dartmouth as was my case and that for many of my friends. As trip leaders, we know how difficult going to the wilderness can be and how uncomfortable living in a new time zone can become, so go to great lengths to make Trips as fun and pleasant as possible. At first we may come across as over-enthusiastic, but give us some time – we only want to be your best friend because we think you are really cool. You might be wondering, “how the heck can you think I’m ‘really cool’ if you’ve never met me?” and I’ll argue that because you have decided to go out of your comfort zone by taking on adventure in a new place, you are really cool. Also the profile you filled out in your trips application tells us everything we would like to know about you – we read those, you know! – and you are so fascinating.
We are excited for you to arrive this fall and are looking forward to greeting you on Robo lawn. Straitjacket, heavy pack, and all. We hope to make your time in the wilderness as memorable as ours, if not more so, so please do not be alarmed by our excitement. We know you might be anxious, too, and that’s okay, we all were. Even if you start sweating buckets through your fleece like I did, I will be your friend if you let me.