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Pre-Orientation: AKA My Favorite Part About Hamilton

February 6, 2013   

Over the weekend, I had dinner with my Outreach Adventure pre-orientation group!  Hamilton has some of the best pre-oreintation programs around.  First-year students can choose to come to campus a week early to participate in a community service trip on Outreach Adventure (OA) or a camping trip through Adirondack Adventure (AA).  About 50 percent of the incoming class participates each year.  I participated in OA my freshman year and fell in love with the program, so I applied (and got accepted to be!) a leader for OA.  I couldn’t imagine starting my school year off any other way.  It feels like the winter holidays to me- my new freshman kids (as we like to call them) are like presents and I can’t wait for them to come and lead them on an amazing journey!

Each trip is comprised of two student leaders and about six to ten incoming first-years.  After arriving at the campus, your group goes off campus for four days to either the wilderness for canoeing/hiking/kayaking/rock climbing on AA or the area surrounding campus to perform community service on OA.  Then, all trips head to outdoor education centers in the Adirondacks to participate in a ropes course and meet up with other trips to get to know more people! 

This past year, I lead the Hospitality Row trip, where we stayed in Utica to volunteer at Hope House, a soup kitchen, and the Emmaus House, a refuge for domestically abused women and children.  I absolutely loved volunteering at these places.  At Hope House, we helped organize their HUGE pantry (which took us two days to completely go through!) and assisted in preparing some meals.  While we were only at Emmaus House for a morning, we also did some great work there by painting a fence to help beautify the facility for the residents. 

However, the highlight of my trip was getting to see this group of six first-years bond and become acclimated to college.  On the first day, my kids were so shy and reserved.  My co-leader Shannon and I had to try so hard to get them to talk!  But, once we left campus and went into Utica for the week, all of them blossomed into amazing individuals.  This process always seems to happen organically.  Even the quietest student trips become talkative and close by the end of the week!  By cooking together, sleeping together, and working as a team at our volunteer sites, it is impossible not to get know the other kids on your trip and become bonded.  One of the things that's really special about the Hospitality Row trip is that all of the participants are girls, by tradition.  So I feel like we became extra close by being able to have girl talk late into the night!

When we went into the Adirondacks to go to the ropes course, I was worried how my group would acclimate to being with so many new people.  We had just formed this amazing bond and now they were being thrust into a much larger group of people.  But, my girls shined!  They started many trends around the camp that we stayed at and became friends with a lot of new people. 

Also, the Adirondacks are so pretty at that time of the year.  Every year I have been a part of OA, I have stayed on Raquette Lake.  I love staying up late into the night, watching the stars and talking with my friends.  Being out in nature and enjoying the (usually) beautiful weather is so much fun and relaxing.

I don’t think that there is any way I could completely capture in writing the magic of Hamilton’s pre-orientation trips.  Every year, I see life-long friendships being made (all of my girls still hang out together!) and individuals open up and become themselves during the stressful transition to college.  If you're considering coming to Hamilton, I would definitely keep in mind participating in an OA or AA trip!  It's the highlight of my school year.  Even though I have to come back super early to lead a trip, I wouldn’t have it any other way!