So I’m one of those obnoxious people whose final decision to come to Dartmouth largely hinged on the outdoors. Whenever I looked at schools, I looked at outing clubs, and whenever I looked at outing clubs, nothing even approached the awesomeness of the DOC. If being outside was so important to my life, how could I not choose a college like Dartmouth, where I would have all these incredible opportunities to go outside (and before I would even enter my first classroom!), live in the middle of my favorite mountain range in the world, and hang out with so many cool people who were also all passionate about the same things as me? So I chose Dartmouth, and a little while later got my first blitz from the First-Year Trips Program telling me to register for my trip. I was so excited. I’m fairly sure I had registered by hour 1 post-blitz.
Flash forward to Section B, Hiking 4. Still excited. But also SO nervous. Honestly, it was probably the scariest thing I had ever done in my life, getting dropped off at Robinson Hall, literally knowing no one on the entire campus, and making myself go and dance with strangers to “Every Time We Touch”. Even going into this sort of outdoor adventure that I should have been so comfortable with, I felt utterly mortified. Some of the doubts flashing through my mind as I danced with H-croo: Did I bring too much? What if I forgot something important? What if nobody likes me? What if I can’t hike as fast as everyone else on this crazy “psycho hiking” trip? What if I figure out that Dartmouth isn’t right for me before I even move in? But as I met people there (one of whom ended up being one of my best friends), and a trip leader who wasn’t even my own pulled me aside to teach me the Salty Dog Rag, began to feel better and better, and like maybe, just maybe, that big “welcome home” sign hanging over us could be telling the truth.
In retrospect, and as someone who has now had involvement in Trips for the past 4 years as a trippee, trip leader x2, and now outdoor logistics coordinator, I see trips as a boiled down essence of Dartmouth at its absolute best. And that’s not to say that everyone needs to see Trips that way—I get that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea (although talk to any Dartmouth student and you’ll see—Trips is pretty darn fun). But I truly think that Trips somehow has this incredible ability to bring students of all years from different backgrounds together in this way that is so authentic, yet also so unique and so crazy. Even from my first day on campus, I felt like I was able to open up, be myself, and meet upperclassmen who literally were so excited that I was there and at Dartmouth that I forgot about how nervous I was in the first place.
I think that often here at Dartmouth we can lose sight of the enduring traditions and campus culture that makes where we are so special in our endeavor to create fluidity and positive change in our community. However, each year that I am involved in Trips, no matter how down I am on school or my grades or Dartmouth in general, without fail I always find that Trips re-grounds me and reminds me of why I chose this school in the first place (for the outdoors, for the people, for the dancing, for the academics, you name it!). Trips holds an incredibly special place in my heart, and it never ceases to amaze me how dedicated new and old students alike are to the program. I can’t wait to meet all of you, 20’s, and I hope that at least for some of you this program will come to hold a special place in your heart from Day 1, as it did for me!