It’s that time of year again. Cars with license plates from states across the country roam the campus searching for parking spots, and students who graduated from high school only a few months ago are rolling up with all their luggage. The 485 members of the entering class are ready to take the first step into their college experience: orientation.
All members of the Class of ’22 will participate in orientation adventure trips, led by upperclassmen leaders who returned to campus early to train for the week of activities and discussions and to help guide the first-year students every step of the way.
New students come in with a million unique fears, hopes, and stories, and a good orientation trip should help these students feel a bit more like they can exist as themselves at Hamilton, regardless of where they are in discovering themselves.
Jana Prudhomme ’19 knew she wanted to be a trip leader ever since she finished her own first-year orientation. Now, she’s leading her own trip exploring the local production and performance of music.
“My leaders did such a great job of making our trip a comfortable, challenging, and wholesome introductory experience that I wanted to be able to do the same for others,” she said. “New students come in with a million unique fears, hopes, and stories, and a good orientation trip should help these students feel a bit more like they can exist as themselves at Hamilton, regardless of where they are in discovering themselves.”
In the days leading up to orientation, the student leaders are setting up their gear, looking over maps, and reviewing their training session from May.
“A lot of it is down to the details,” said Joe Harper ’21. “How to set up a camp, how to get from point A to point B, but also how to engage the group and make sure everybody has fun.”
Harper, who’s leading a canoeing trip in the Adirondacks, takes his role as a leader very seriously. “It can be a difficult process, but it’s a really important one,” he said. “These kids are fresh off the boat in terms of coming to college. They don’t really know what to expect. This is their first experience together with their future classmates—it can determine the first few weeks of their college experience and beyond.”
If there’s one thing all the leaders can agree on, it’s that it takes a lot of work to prepare for the orientation trips. “We do a lot of training,” said Marlena Napier-Smith ’21, who’s leading students on a canoeing trip at Long Lake. “That’s the most important thing. We do a lot, we all want to be here, and we’re all working hard to be a part of these students’ first college experiences. There’s nothing we haven’t covered twice.”