Eliana Miller ’21 is looking forward to a day at the beach, Popham beach to be exact, which is about a twenty-minute drive away. After that it’s back to the campsite to chill out in a hammock maybe, eat rice and beans around a campfire, and get to know her classmates better. Tomorrow she’ll be going canoeing. “This is a great opportunity to hang out, meet people and learn about Bowdoin, which is great. It’s not ‘go, go, go’ like some camp experiences, but there are enough activities to make it fun.”
Miller is one of twenty incoming first-years enjoying a three-and-a-half-day camping trip to Merritt Island organized by the Bowdoin Outing Club. It’s one of many orientation activities being undertaken by the class of 2021 before classes start next Wednesday (August 31, 2017) and school gets underway in earnest.
Beatrice Cabrera ’20 is one of four student leaders accompanying these two groups of campers. “This is a chance for kids to get accustomed to Bowdoin before diving into campus life next week. Hopefully these few days getting to know people will make College seem less daunting when they’re back on campus.”
Merritt Island is a twenty-eight acre plot of land in the New Meadows River owned by Bowdoin. It’s only a twenty-five-minute drive from campus, but it offers these students, most of whom are new to the pine tree state, a picture-postcard experience of coastal Maine. Accessible by foot at low tide, the thickly wooded island is a great base for exploring the northern end of Casco Bay by canoe.
Student leader Diego Velasquez ’20 said the trip is a great bonding experience. “I did this trip last year and I’m still really tight with everyone I went with.” It’s also a good introduction for newcomers to the outdoor life, he said. “We introduce them to basic Outing Club practices, we teach them how to use a stove, a few basic knots, how to operate a canoe, but this is essentially one of the most laid-back trips you can do. It’s not Survivor.”
The students are housed in a couple of twelve-man tents. They took all their supplies onto the island Wednesday morning and will be based there until Saturday. Getting there, with all the supplies needed for three nights on the island was probably the most challenging part of the trip, said Nathan Ashany ’21: “Although even that wasn’t too hard. The other group had a tougher time of it because they came in when the tide was lower.”
Ashany said he spent much of the first day interrogating his student leaders. “We all had lots of random questions about life at Bowdoin that we hadn’t had the opportunity to ask anyone yet.”
The students are well-fed, and dinner the previous night gave a good indication of the level of catering required, said student leader Diana Grandas ’20. “We got through four pounds of spaghetti, and two 32-oz cans of red sauce, which was enough to make everyone more than full.”
One of the attractions of this trip, she said, is that it provides a taste of the Maine wilderness while still being close to “civilization,” and importantly, there’s a strong cell phone signal.
That suits Rebecca Marrow ’21, who described herself as “not a super-outdoorsy person.” This trip, she said, “seemed like a good way to step out of my comfort zone without it being too challenging.” The casual, laid-back atmosphere, she said, for her is a better way to get to know people than doing “crazy activities.”
Holly Lyne ’21 said she hadn’t camped before, but she likes it. “I’ve made friends already, hung out in hammocks, been stargazing, saw the Milky Way and seven shooting stars. It’s been awesome.”