At four in the morning, me and thirteen other Pomona first-years woke up to bid our sponsor groups, bathrooms and comfy beds farewell, embarking on a journey that would kickstart our first year of college: Orientation Adventure (OA). As part of the Pomona orientation experience, all first-years go on an outdoor trip of their choice, ranging from backpacking (my trip!) to sea kayaking, rock climbing to surfing.
To be honest, I was definitely nervous. It was only the first week of orientation, I was adjusting to living in a new country (shout out to my fellow international students!) and I was going backpacking (fitness training did not happen this summer…). But little did I know that I would soon become a part of a new “family,” affectionately known as Dom B (or Dom Bae), and share some of the most meaningful and intimate conversations with my new friends. Nature was the perfect setting for bonding with my peers; together, we created an environment of respect, understanding and inclusiveness that made our OA trip extremely memorable.
At Pomona, returning students have the opportunity to lead first-year orientation trips, and my leaders made my experience amazing. They introduced new games to us (llama llama and hum-dinger being the favorites), showed us how to assemble tents, cook in the wilderness and the basics of how to do your business in the woods (something we all bonded over). My favorite memory was the day when our leaders each gave us a question to ask every person in the group. By the end of the day, we had learned so much about each other. We became a very tight-knit group. Our OA leaders became our friends and mentors–candid and honest when they answered our questions, always leaving their door open to us if we needed a friend or a helping hand.
Due to fire hazards in the forest, our nightly bonding took place around our “nalgene fire”, where we shared stories, played games and reflected on the highs and lows of our day. I felt these were some of the most beautiful moments of our trip. Sitting together in a circle, we were able to relax and simply enjoy each other’s company and the wilderness around us.
Orientation Adventure was a precious time where we were away from academics, technology and worries about starting college, instead focused on making personal connections with each other. I can’t imagine what my college experience would have been like without my OA trip. I shared the most personal moments of my life with my Dome B family, and in turn they shared theirs with me. Who would I be if it had not been for that backpacking trip with the forest cows (yes, there were cows!), the sweet-smelling trees and my amazing friends?
Through the struggles of rationing our beloved GORP (Good Ol’ Raisins and Peanuts), not showering for four days, hiking with our big packs, and countless riddles and stories, I wouldn’t have wanted my college experience to begin any other way!