I remember the rush of excitement that came with my Dartmouth acceptance letter, and I remember the rush of nerves that followed as the reality of going away to college approached. I am a quiet introvert from Miami, Florida, and despite it being a big diverse sprawl of a city, most people in my family and my high school stayed in state for college, with the most adventurous going a 6-8 hour drive away. In my Cuban-American community at home, it’s pretty strange for someone to leave Florida for college. And here I was, committing to a school over 1,000 miles away, and probably the furthest thing from my hometown culture-wise. I had never started a school from scratch, without any friends coming with me, but this time I was completely on my own. I hadn’t even gone to Dimensions so I didn’t know a single person at Dartmouth, let alone other 17s headed there.
My first day on campus was full of slightly uncomfortable moments and nerves; I met my trippees and they all seemed to have friends in common from the Northeast area and boarding schools. I stood there awkwardly not really knowing what to say, and feeling so out of place. For the next few hours we did all the pre-trips activities: played games on the green, talked, got the gear we needed, took our swim test. Late in the afternoon, our last trippee arrived, who, to my surprise and relief, was also a Floridian.
The next few days were a rollercoaster of feelings. Day one was really tough. I had signed up for hiking 3, and soon realized that this was very different from the hiking I was used to. My framepack was heavy, I was out of shape, it was raining, and we were going up steep hills for most of the day. Plus, all my trippees appeared to be crushing it. I didn’t talk much that day (I was busy breathing hard). I thought I had made a huge mistake.
Day 2 was much better; I started having some really great conversations with my fellow Floridian including how weird it was for us to be camping and hiking. We were now going downhill and the views were magical and encouraging. The water tasted like iodine and peeing outside was interesting…but I was getting used to and even liking this whole outdoors thing.
The next few days blend together in my head now; we all got much closer as we experienced some tarp floodings, trail games, attempts to yum-yum (finish off) very watery mac and cheese, and confusing map directions and wrong turns. We climbed into the bus very smelly, content, and much more at ease than we had been on the first day. Then we were introduced to the lodge for the first time; a place that has become very special to me over my years at Dartmouth.
My Trips experience was a lot. Parts of it were hard, parts of it were uncomfortable, but a lot of it was new and incredible and fun. Most of my trippees are still my best friends now, and yes I’ve become a crunchy, outdoors-loving hiker/kayaker/DOCer since then, and trips was the huge first step in exposing me to that part of my life. No one’s Dartmouth experience is the same, so my advice to you ‘20s is: be open to trying new things when you get here, because you never know if you’ll discover an amazing community, a new passion, or a whole new side of yourself out in that New Hampshire wilderness.