When orientation for incoming first years rolls around the last week in August, the 497 students in the class of 2017 will launch their Bowdoin careers with a four-day trip with either the Bowdoin Outing Club or the McKeen Center for the Common Good. Some will also take part in the Bowdoin Science Experience.
This year, the Outing Club and the McKeen Center are offering, on top of many popular older trips, five new expeditions. Orientation trips introduce first-year students to one another and to the land and people of Maine. Groups of eight students, along with two or three upper-class leaders, head out to unique wilderness areas or communities to explore the outdoors, meet Mainers, volunteer and have fun.
One of two new trips created by the Outing Club this year is a stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) expedition. These paddle boards are like big surfboards, but require a canoe-like paddle and are more stable in flat water. “It’s been a very fast-growing activity in the paddling community,” Outing Club Assistant Director Becca Austin said, adding that the sport satisfies the temptation to try to stand up during seemingly sit-down-only activities, such as canoeing and sledding. “Or maybe that’s just me!” she said and laughed.
The Outing Club is sending a group of paddle boarders to Aziscohos Valley, where they’ll camp alongside students on other trips. The SUP-ers will start off on still water before moving on to the river. “People eventually do white water and yoga with SUPs,” Austin said.
The Outing Club is also replacing its road biking trip — an arduous undertaking that required students to log many miles a day — with a combination bike-and-hike trip. One bike-and-hike group will explore the Mt. Blue State Park area; the other will be based in Lily Bay State Park in the Moosehead Lake area. The students will bike out to trail heads to take smallish hikes.
We’re creating more opportunities for those who want to go out into the community in their first few days [at Bowdoin].—McKeen Center Assistant Director Caitlin Callahan
The McKeen Center runs orientation trips that place first years in Maine communities, where they have the opportunity to work alongside local people on community service projects. This year, the McKeen Center has added three new trips.
One of these trips will have students living on Vinalhaven, a small island off the coast of Rockland. There students will volunteer with local organizations, including the island’s land trust and the childcare center. They’ll also have time to kick back and swim or hike.
Katie Ross ’14, who has been organizing orientation trips this summer as the McKeen Center’s community immersion fellow, said island stays appeal to some incoming students. The McKeen Center also offers an orientation trip to North Haven Island. “I think a lot of students hear about Maine’s islands before they get here,” Ross said. “They think they are iconic to Maine and that they might not get the chance to visit the islands later.”
The McKeen Center is also offering a new orientation trip to Pleasant Point, a Passamaquoddy reservation in Down East Maine. The students will work at the local recreation center, helping to plan activities and play with the children. Ross said the center’s director is also looking forward to Bowdoin students chatting with reservation teenagers about the college application process.
The third new trip offered by the McKeen Center will focus on public health, a growing area of interest for students, according to Caitlin Callahan, the McKeen Center’s assistant director.
The public health group will stay on Bowdoin’s campus — along with orientation groups exploring the issues of hunger and homelessness, immigrants and refugees, and environment and sustainability. They’ll visit nearby organizations that work to enhance the health of people and communities, including Partners for World Health in Scarborough and the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust.
Callahan said that in total this year, 100 first-year students will be participating in McKeen Center orientation trips. “We’re creating more opportunities for those who want to go out into the community in their first few days,” she added.