Since all the way back in 2012, Trips has been far and away my favorite time of year at Dartmouth. It may partly be the late summer sunshine and the anticipation of a new year (without any actual homework yet), but there is a unique excitement that can come only from a new class’s arrival. On my Trip, I remember feeling a lot of things (mostly confused), but what stuck out was how excited people were about my class being there.
HEEEYYYOOOOOO! If you’re reading this, you’re already my new friend. Welcome to the Dartmouth family! Before you know it, you’re going to come up to your new home for Trips, which is where we introduce you to the magic sauce that makes Dartmouth such an incredible place.
I know that some of you are super nervous, or scared, or worried about what’s going to happen. Yeah, you’re right: this is a total unknown. You have no idea what’s going to happen to you when you get up there, and, scarily enough, the one thing you do know is that your life is about to change you forever.
The thing is, those sentences shouldn’t scare you.
They should excite you.
Have you ever had a moment of pure, unbridled joy? You know, the kind where something — anything — happens, and you just can’t contain yourself? From a great song to a magical goal, pure, unbridled happiness is a gift.
It’s a gift that I only understand because of Trips. It’s scary, yeah, but only until you realize that every single other person is in the same boat as you. Why not cut loose and have the most fun you possibly can? Don’t shy away from the chaos of newness, EMBRACE IT!
I promise you, you will enjoy the experience 1000x better if you jump in with both feet. There is no downside to going all-in. No one will see you as “uncool” because you’re having the time of your life with (slightly) overeager Dartmouth students. You’ll be busy having the time of your life, embracing it and devoting every last second to making Trips an awesome experience for you.
So if you’re in any way NOT excited to be at Dartmouth, now is your time to change your mindset. Trips is an amazing experience; by embracing it with all your heart and nerve and sinew, I promise that you will see Dartmouth as I now see it: home.
If you asked me to make a list of my favorite things about Dartmouth, it would be pretty generic: the passionate students and Professors, the collaborative and engaging academic environment, swimming in the river, drinking iced coffee from KAF, etc. As I approach the start of my senior year, however, I’ve realized how many smaller, often-overlooked things about our school I’ve also come to appreciate. One of those things is how little separation or division there is between the different class years. By the end of my freshman year, I remember being surprised by how many upperclassmen I had developed relationships with, and one of the most valuable parts of my time at Dartmouth since then has been getting to know the younger classes.
There are probably a lot of reasons for how well-integrated the class years are– the small student body and (for better or worse) the prevalence of the Greek system are two that come to mind– but I have no doubt that the trips program plays a monumental role in this as well. Each year, hundreds of students devote weeks of their lives just to welcome the incoming class, and the result is one of the most friendly and open times at Dartmouth. I don’t mean to put the program on a pedestal– I fully realize that it’s not for everyone, and that people from certain backgrounds have inherently greater access to enjoyment of the outdoors– but, in my experience, it carries enormous potential for relationship building.
I don’t remember too much about how I felt going into my trip, but I’ll never forget how I felt when I got back to campus after it was over. I remember having to walk somewhere alone after the bus got back– maybe to go to the bathroom, maybe to pick up my cell phone– and feeling totally at ease, like I was home. That doesn’t mean I never felt out of place or uneasy during my freshman fall, but in that moment, right at the peak of post-trips euphoria, I didn’t have a single worry. This was because of the effort put in by my trip leaders and all the other trips volunteers to make me and the rest of my class feel at home.
Trips has only become more important to me since that fall. My friendships with my trip leaders were a huge part of my freshman and sophomore years, and two of my trippees remain among my favorite people at Dartmouth today. That’s why I’ve been a trip leader every year since then. Whether it’s attempting to set up a campground in the pouring rain, basking in the late summer sun, sharing meaningful personal stories, or entertaining my trippees (and embarrassing myself) with my erratic sleep talking, trips has been a time for me to bond with amazing people without having to be anyone other than my full, authentic self. Emphasis on that last part– you don’t have to be the outdoorsiest or most extroverted person to enjoy trips– just yourself. Trust me: sophomore year, my flatwater kayaking co-leader and I challenged our trippees to throw their paddles in the air and see how many times they could clap their hands before catching it. This terrible idea of ours caused someone to capsize and get all our camping supplies wet, and it’s now used as an example of what not to do in trip leader training each year. At the same time though, it was okay, because trips isn’t about proving yourself or avoiding mistakes. It’s about beautiful nature, friendly people, delicious food, and meaningful, even if nonsensical, memories.
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.
Because I knew a lot of people who had gone to Dartmouth, everyone really built up Trips in my mind. Before I even got to Hanover, I was so excited to meet my future best friends, hike the Appalachian Trail, and dance on the field at the Lodj. These high expectations caused me to be disappointed and concerned when Trips wasn’t all that I had imagined. My freshman trip was full of difficulties: exclusive trippees that only wanted to talk about their boarding school, an injured leg that made hiking painful, and a rain storm that soaked all of our belongings and left us tired and grumpy on the way to the Lodj. It left me questioning: why wasn’t my freshman trip as amazing as everyone said it should be? Why is everyone else having such a good time and I’m not? Did I do something wrong? Is Dartmouth really the right school for me?
Despite all of my concerns about Trips, I decided to give the program a second chance, and I applied to be a trip leader after my freshman year. The experience could not have gone better: it reminded me of everything I love about Dartmouth. I absolutely loved my trippees, we all had a great experience, and the rain just made us closer. Two years later we still have Trips reunions, and three of them are best friends. During this second Trips experience I was able to see and embrace the magic that I missed the first time. All that excitement you see from the upperclassmen trip leaders or croolings is genuine: we are so excited to share our love of Dartmouth with all of you and help you navigate your first days at school. So dance to the Salty Dog Rag, open up to your trippees when you’re snuggled in your sleeping bags at night, and embrace the beautiful New Hampshire wilderness (even when the weather isn’t on your side).
Overall, your Trips experience may not be everything you’ve ever wanted it to be, and that’s okay. While as trip leaders we hope to make your experience as great as possible, we also know that Trips isn’t always fun for everyone. So don’t be afraid to talk to us about it: we know exactly what you’re going through, and hopefully we can help make it better. Don’t write off Dartmouth because of five days that you spent with ten people in the woods. You may meet your best friends on Trips, or you may not meet them until orientation, or on your freshman floor, or in your classes. Even with the issues on my trip, one of my trippees and I became best friends. Three years later, we know that some of the struggles we faced on Trips helped make us closer. I promise you will also find your Dartmouth family. Trust the sign above Robo when you first show up on campus: Dartmouth is truly home. Welcome home!
Trips, to me, is Dartmouth’s most joyful, beautiful, fun, challenging, epic tradition. It is a tradition in that it has been an institution for 80 years now. Yet it defies the definition of a tradition in that every year, Trips changes, evolves, and interacts with each student in a different way. I want to share what Trips has meant to me over the years.
Year One: I was on I35 – Hiking 3. In my journal on the plane up to Hanover for my Trip (9/4/13) I wrote: “I’m ready for a challenge and ready for something new and exciting. Dartmouth here I come!!” I laugh at this now because I had NO IDEA what I was truly ready or not ready for, but Trips was certainly something new, exciting, and challenging. Coming into Dartmouth, one of my biggest insecrities was that I was waitlisted. I promised myself that I wouldn’t share this with anyone because I didn’t want people to think that I didn’t deserve to be at Dartmouth. Within the few days of getting to know each other, I shamelessly told my trip about my rocky college journey and knew that I was crazy to think I would be judged for it. On the last day, my trip climbed Mount Moosilauke – Dartmouth’s beautiful, grand mountain. I was so happy and grateful to be in such a gorgeous place with such incredible people who I felt like I could trust and rely on.
Year Two: I was a trip leader on A104 – Mountain Biking. Let me preface this by saying that Freshman year, I believed my trip leaders were angels on earth – they were skilled, knowledgeable, confident and competent. As a trip leader, I realized that myself and all the other trip leaders were very much just human. However, even though I was not the most skilled and I didn’t know everything there was to know about Dartmouth, I still had experiences and advice to share. Trips continued to challenge me and push me beyond my comfort zone. Not only was I challenged to embrace the adrenaline and thrill of mountain biking, but I was challenged as a role model and leader. Being a trip leader allowed me to reflect on the past year and give advice to incoming students. I urge you all – ask your trip leaders and croolings the real questions. They don’t have all the answers but they each have a Dartmouth story to share.
Year Three: The day after my last final exam of sophomore summer I departed on trip H59 – Hiking 4 Franconia Ridge. After four terms in a row, I was exhausted and feeling ready for my off term. Yet after Trips, I bawled leaving Dartmouth. My trippees were so inspirational and unique. Each one taught me something and reminded me that every Dartmouth student is brilliant and wonderful in their own way. The hike was the most glorious time in the outdoors that I could have ever asked for. The singing and dancing and playing and walking and laughing were exactly what I needed. And I am so grateful to Trips for that.
Year Four: When a friend asked me if I was going to apply to volunteer for Trips for a final year, I responded to them: “I don’t know what Dartmouth is to me without Trips.” Trips is my Dartmouth foundation. Trips is the spark that keeps my flaming love for Dartmouth alive. Trips is what has allowed me to find close friends in every class year, to love the White Mountains, and to call Dartmouth home.
I cannot promise that Trips will mean as much to you as it does to me. However, I can promise you that – if you are open minded – you will learn something about Dartmouth, something about the individuals around you, and something about yourself on this five day adventure. Can’t wait to see you out there.
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!
It’s hard to put my finger on the moment when I fell in love with Trips. Maybe it was sometime in the middle of my first night in the woods, when I stayed up for hours laughing with friends who had been strangers just a day before. Maybe it came during an afternoon of dancing and haphazard field games on the front lawn of the Lodge. Or, more likely, discovering what made Trips special was a process—a sweaty, 5-day process, at times masked by the discomfort of sleeping on a foam mat, making awkward introductions, and interacting with overwhelmingly outgoing upperclassmen in costume.
Unlike the smell of body odor and Trangia smoke in my favorite non-cotton T-shirt, the magic of Trips wasn’t always plainly recognizable.
But I soon learned that approximately a thousand other 18s shared my concerns. Whether it’s academics, fitting into a new social scene, or simply making the first friendships of college sans deodorant, every incoming freshman has something to be nervous about. The beauty of Trips is that it distills Dartmouth into its most wholesome, fun-loving form and helps to put us on even ground.
Why feel nervous about impressing your trippees when you’re in the middle of an impromptu dance party in the rain? About keeping up academically, when the main task at hand is melting a block of Cabot cheese into a pot of Annie’s Mac? I don’t mean to say that Trips will rid you of your every college-related fear, but I hope you’ll notice in these moments of joy and camaraderie that you already have a community, and a better understanding of the place that will become your home for the next four years.
So if you find yourself feeling as nervous as I was in those first moments on the Robo lawn, remind yourself that there are 1200 other Dartmouth freshmen in the exact same boat. Remember that once you look beyond the blisters and the moments of social unease, each one of you will find a reason to appreciate this adventure.
And don’t forget to throw your T-shirt in the wash the second you get back to campus.
Welcome home, 20s!
Welcome to the Trips blog, ’20s! We’re so excited to welcome you in August.
First off, I should introduce myself: I’m the Outreach Coordinator, Doug! I’m responsible for the blog and social media presence of Trips, so if there’s anything you would like to see more (or less) of, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at Doug.firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I think of my Trips experience, I remember staring out the car window terrified of what I thought was to come. I was frantically reading a free eBook on how to make a good first impression, convinced that everybody at Dartmouth would be a crazy smart genius with unbelievable social skills.
The second I got to Robinson lawn and signed in, I realized that I didn’t need the advice I’d spent three hours perusing. Everyone was in the same awkward boat. There are so many different people with so many different stories at Dartmouth, but at this moment, we were all connected by this common feeling of uneasiness. Once I recognized that, conversation flowed easily; everyone was so excited to get to know their new classmates, and they instantly became less intimidating after I understood that nervous energy emanated from practically everyone.
As clichéd as it may sound, Trips constantly helps me discover new things about myself. When I led a trip my sophomore year, I expected outgoing, loud trippees to meet me on Robo Lawn; I couldn’t wait to have fun with them. Of course, even the most rambunctious people often appear reserved at first. My trip was pretty introverted, and it took a full day for me to recognize that the occasional silence was not my fault–there are different people with different kinds of personalities, and some just aren’t talkers. My trip wasn’t what I was expecting, but once I realized that my false assumptions were coloring my interactions with trippees, I stopped forcing conversation where it didn’t need to be and the trip became more natural.
’20s: I know you must have some feelings about Trips and Dartmouth, so don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions whatsoever (Doug.email@example.com). If there’s any piece of advice I would offer, it’s to avoid taking too much advice; do your best to avoid making assumptions about what Trips or Dartmouth will be like for you based on what others have said. You won’t have the exact same Trips or Dartmouth experience that anyone else has had, and realizing that liberates you to a world of possibility.
We’ve said it a million times, and we’ll say it a million more: we cannot WAIT for you to arrive in Hanover this fall. We have been working tirelessly to put this program together for you, and we hope you’ll have a unique, awesome experience.