After sleeping en masse in Farley Field House, all 511 of the first-year students headed off on their three-day orientation trips Wednesday morning. In groups of eight, with two upperclass leaders, they traveled to destinations near and far, all over the state.
The first-year orientation trips are a way for students to start their Bowdoin experience in an intense but fun way, to make first connections, and to get to know Maine a bit before the academic rigors of the semester set in. They have three days to try out new activities—like sailing, fat biking, surfing, or camping—and to ask their leaders all the questions they have about college life at Bowdoin.
This year, the students chose from twenty-nine trips—fourteen of them community-immersion experiences and the rest outing club expeditions—and were split into approximately sixty groups.
On Wednesday afternoon, after the downpour had given way to crisp air and sunlight, the Midcoast Communities’ Environment and Sustainability trip, which is geared toward community service, traveled to volunteer in a state park in Freeport.
But the group’s first job at the park was more focused on personal gratification: they were to go clamming in the mudflats for their dinner. In rubber boots borrowed from the biology department, the students sunk rakes into the claylike mud, trying to unearth soft-shell clams. (The park’s AmeriCorps volunteer taught them a technique for extracting a stuck boot: you should put pressure on your toes and pull up, to “break the seal.”)
The trip was led by Kevin Li ’21 and Safiya Osei ’21. Li said he had gotten such a good impression about Bowdoin from his trip leaders last year that he felt compelled to provide the same service this year. “I wanted to pass on the torch in some sense,” he said. Plus, he added, he cares about the environment.
Besides relishing the opportunity to spend a few days in nature, Osei said she wanted to help the first-years begin Bowdoin on a good note. Her trip leaders last year had been very welcoming, and the group bonded well. “I’m still close to them,” she said.
Thursday afternoon, down at the Schiller Coastal Studies Center on Orr’s Island, glorious sunshine and a gentle breeze provided the perfect conditions for those who had chosen the Harpswell Sound: Sail option, which also involves archery, canoeing, and hiking. After a post-lunch nap, the students, most of them first-time sailors, took to the water in a number of “Flying Junior” sailboats, known as FJs. “I’ve never been on a boat before,” said Hajna Nagy ’22. No problem, said instructor Eliza Jevon ’21, a member of the Bowdoin sailing team: these two-person sailing dinghies are good vessels to learn in.
“We’ve been doing some bonding and team-building activities,” said Jevon. “Sailing is a really good way to get to know someone, because you’re on the water and you have to work together to sail the craft.” A certain amount of trial and error is involved in learning to sail, she added, but don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe: the sailing takes place miles from the open ocean and Jevon keeps a close eye on the young sailors, following them in a powerboat equipped with a radio. “It was chill, kind of sitting on the waves,” said Angus Dill ’22. Sailing is not really his thing, he added, but it makes for a fun orientation trip, a good way of meeting people.
A ten-minute walk away from the wharf, student leader Carlos Holguin ’19 was supervising an archery session in a field. “Archery’s actually easier than it looks, if you remember to control your breathing,” he said. “The slightest movement effects the direction of the arrow.” Six groups are coming through here, and Holguin said he’s encouraged by how well the first years have been doing. “They’ve been really good, consistently hitting the targets from fifteen yards out.” Such was the enthusiasm for this activity, he said, that he devised a biathlon-type event, involving a combination of running and archery (although not at the same time!) “It’s been fun,” said Sarah Byars ’22, “one of favorite activities because anyone can do it if you follow the instructions.”
Learn more about the Bowdoin Science Experience.
Check out these images from orientation trips to Baxter State Park and Swan Island.