Orientation Trips: First Years Get a Taste of Maine Before Busy Semester

Yesterday afternoon, several first-year students on an orientation trip walked down a dock to take a swim in Harpswell Sound. As they checked out the view, one student gushed, “Honestly, this looks like a painting! How incredible.”

Another student was a bit less impressed. “That’s a beach?” he asked, pointing to the pebbly shore strewn with seaweed. “Where’s the sand?”

“Stop dissing Maine!” chided Brittany Hernandez ’19, who is the orientation trip’s co-leader, with Natasha Alvarez ’19. Their group is focusing on environmental issues that face communities around Bowdoin.

From Wednesday to Saturday, all incoming first-year students are exploring Maine on Orientation Trips, either doing community service or outdoor activities. While most are far-flung—as far as Aroostook County and Mt. Katahdin—a few are local, either based on campus or at Bowdoin’s Coastal Studies Center on Orr’s Island.

Earlier, Hernandez and Alvarez’s group had taken a two-hour ferry from Portland to uninhabited Jewell Island to clean up trails and camp sites. Now they were just having fun and taking a dip in the ocean at the Coastal Studies Center. Shortly after arriving at the dock, they were joined by two other community service trips that had come by to cool off.

At the same time, two other groups were nearby, sailing and practicing archery.

As they waited on the dock to sail in the wind-whipped sound, a couple of students spoke about how much they are appreciating these few days to have fun and relax before the hectic semester begins.

Sophie Cowen ’18, a co-leader of a Harpswell Sound outing club trip, said the orientation trips are a gentle way for anxious first-years to transition to college. She described the evening before, when her group watched the sun set over the ocean and then sat around a campfire under a starry sky, drinking hot cocoa, listening to her co-leader, Bo Bleckel ’18, play the ukelele. “It serves as a good distraction,” she said. “We were all first years once. It can be pretty scary.”

As she waited her turn to use a bow at an archery range, Rebecca Londoner ’20, from Westport, Conn., said she was enjoying a new experience for her—camping, canoeing, sailing—and all the friendly people she was meeting. “It’s is a good way to start things off,” she said.

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