A Trip in the Woods - Adjusting to College Life
Nervousness and excitement and confusion and anticipation. I was feeling all of these emotions and more, standing on a lawn full of strangers in a place several hundred miles away from where I’d lived for the majority of my life. But this place was about to become my new home and that’s why I had so many emotions coursing through my mind. College was a huge transition from the well-known and comfortable routine of high school which I had gotten so used to over the previous four years.
Obviously, though, my college deployed many strategies to help ease us into life there and to help calm us while we adjusted to a whole new life. One of those strategies was to thrust us into a five-day trip of hiking and climbing in the woods with a group of other first year students as well as two older students who were our leaders and mentors. The goal of these five days of camping and physical exhaustion, which we simply referred to as “trips,” was to accelerate us into making friends quickly and using our trip leaders to answer all our questions and worries about college life. So, as I was standing there on that unfamiliar lawn, after just checking-in for my trip section, I was looking around at all the other confused and nervous first year students and was glad everyone was just as scared as I was.
Eventually, however, my trip section assembled together and made our introductions – we told each other our names, where we were from, why we chose this college instead of others, what we were thinking of majoring in, and many more “safe” topics that seemed to be comfortable to ask people that we just met. There were seven other first year students in my group along with two trip leaders, a senior and a junior. Both of my trip leaders seemed intimidating to me that first night because they seemed to know everything and were very confident in answering any and all of our questions. Finally, after we had thoroughly exhausted all the introductory conversation, all of the trip groups were led inside one of the buildings to be given a safety talk for our five-day forest adventure.
The safety talk was both intimidating and boring – we were already exhausted from all our emotions throughout the day and now dozens of complex safety rules were being thrust upon us. After what seemed like an eternity, all of the sudden all the trip leaders in the room jumped up. Completely surprised and confused, we quickly learned that the so-called safety talk was just a ruse as all of the upperclassmen burst into song and dance. As one of the oldest colleges in the United States, my college naturally had many traditions, including this one. The songs that the trip leaders sang and danced to were of their own creation – they had written songs about staying with our group, filtering stream water, not littering in the forests, and other important safety topics. We were both excited and energized by these shows, mostly due to the surprise nature of it all. The rest of freshman trips carried this same tone of surprise traditions and fun.
The next day, we finally left for our trip in the forests. We were dropped off by a bus next to the start of the trail by the road. Thankfully, the weather was very nice – it was cloudy and not unbearably hot. The trails, however, were covered in puddles and pits of mud due to rain from days prior. We hiked several miles before stopping for lunch. Along the trails, we played word games and talked to each other more – we were now much more comfortable around each other because the isolation of the woods banded us together. That night, after hiking about seven miles uphill with thirty-pound backpacks, we stopped at a shelter at the top of the mountain, exhausted and ready to eat dinner. After eating, we spent time talking and laughing, then finally set up our sleeping bags and dropped into deep sleep.
In the morning, we packed up our things and continued hiking onward. We were scheduled to hike to a cabin near the skiway – a strip of sloped land that was covered in snow in the winter for skiing, but was grassy in the heat of September. Though exhausted from another day of hiking around seven miles, we still managed to play a quick game of whiffle ball with another trip group that we ran across at the skiway. It was a friendly game between newfound companions and by now we were extremely comfortable with the people we were around, with all our anxieties forgotten in the great outdoors.
The rest of our trip went by quickly with lots of fun, physical exertion, and not being able to shower for five days.On the last day, we hiked to the destination that all the trip groups were heading toward – a giant lodge owned by my college. The final day was about relaxing after all the strenuous hiking; we had fun meeting more people, playing silly games, and careening down makeshift waterslides. At the end of it all, we emerged close friends and slightly more confident in adjusting to college life with our newfound support systems.
With classes starting soon after, our small trip group was scattered across campus in different dorms, different classes, and different activities. We still made time, however, to meet each other for meals and catch up. While adjusting to a college schedule, with much harder classes as well as much more time spent outside of class, those first few friends I made on freshman trips still stayed with me.
College is a huge adjustment for anyone – your life gets flipped around and changed completely. Being alone on that first day surrounded by so many strangers scared me, but through my college’s freshman trips, I became more confident, wiser, and felt ready to tackle the huge challenges of classes, extracurricular activities, and more. To me, freshman trips was the best transition my college could have given me to adjust to my new life. I know that my friends from my trip group will continue to stick together throughout the rest of college, and hopefully even further.