Trips Go On, Adjusting for COVID-19

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The student-run directorate has opted to move this year’s trips closer to Hanover.

Dartmouth students canoe on the Connecticut River
In the warm months, students enjoy water sports, including canoeing, paddleboarding, and kayaking, on the Connecticut River. This year’s trips will offer several opportunities to be on the water. (Photo by Xiaoran “Seamore” Zhu ’19, Thayer ’20)

First-year trips for undergraduate members of the Class of 2025 are going to take place close to home this year as multiple day-trips instead of overnight experiences, the student directorate that manages the popular program for incoming students announced Thursday.

Trips are a beloved tradition and a way for new students to get acquainted with each other and with Dartmouth customs. That won’t change, despite some venue changes this year, says Associate Dean for Student Life Eric Ramsey.

“I am so proud of the trips directorate for their ability to think through a difficult situation and for their willingness to pivot and make the best of the situation,” he says. “I’m sure they are disappointed, with their summer’s worth of hard work and planning needing to be changed at the last minute, but we are supporting them 100% to help make this year’s trips a unique and memorable experience.”

The decision not to send students on multi-night trips, some far from campus, was made on Thursday by the dozen students who make up the trips directorate after they consulted with medical professionals and Dartmouth senior leaders and reexamined their COVID-19 prevention and response protocols. The students considered potential impacts of the virus on overnight trips, including an expected delay in turnaround times for COVID-19 testing for first-year students arriving on campus Friday and the difficulty and disruption of having to bring students back to Hanover from far afield if they test positive for the virus.

Incoming students and their families were notified of the switch to day trips in an email Thursday from the trips directorate.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have chosen to move much of our program from ‘in the field’ and backcountry areas to natural spaces and resources closer to home,” the email says. They are also starting trips one day later, on Sunday. Students “will use the Dartmouth campus as a ‘home base’ from which to venture forth on their activities, with incoming students (that’s you!) spending nights in their residence halls.”

Trips, which is a student-led program, typically offer several dozen types of activities such as the more traditional hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, and mountain biking, as well as newer activities, including museum exploration, fly fishing, and Frisbee golf. The themes and activities planned for this year’s trips will stay mostly the same, the organizers said. Each group will spend a full day on an activity and a second day at one of Dartmouth’s lodges, relaxing and sharing a meal.

“Our main goal for first-year trips is to provide a sense of community and place for incoming students as they come to Dartmouth. This year’s shift strongly reduces the risk of disruption to that crucial student experience, and so we’re very excited to explore this new model,” says Kellen Appleton ’20, coordinator of first-year trips.

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