200 Days in the Life of the College

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Friday, August 13, 2010

‘Is this what college is about?’

By Julia Wilber ’11

The eight chimes from the Chapel Bell tower that break the morning silence are followed moments later by enthusiastic shouts from College Hill Road. Announcing the arrival of the first convoy, waves of cheering leaders welcome minivans packed with first-year students and parents, ready (or not) for the opening day of Hamilton’s pre-orientation programs, Adirondack Adventure and Urban Service Experience, since renamed Outreach Adventure.

“You forget how exciting it is, driving up to Hamilton,” says leader Amelia Mattern ’12. “People are exploding with excitement. We get to build on their excitement, and it helps us build ours, too, because it’s a long day.”

And it is full of purposeful chaos, starting at a registration tent and ending with such games as the Rock, Paper, Scissors Championship on Love Field.

“It’s not what they’re expecting,” Mattern adds. “They’re like, ‘Is this what college is about?’ and we say, ‘Yes, it is what college is about’ — do what you like, do what you need to find out who you are.”

The day’s events, including displays of silly signs and dressing in fun costumes, are designed to encourage participants to give of themselves in meaningful ways, allowing friendships to start forming. It’s great for the leaders, too.

“It’s nice to be one of the first people they meet,” Mattern says. “I get to be Hamilton for them for those 10 minutes when they don’t know anything else. It’s great to be able to represent this place that I’m really proud to be a part of.”