News Release: Student Life

Aug. 12,  2008

Emory Freshmen Take a Hike Into College Life

While many of their future classmates pack for dorm living, some incoming Emory University freshmen will be throwing on backpacks and hiking into college life through Outdoor Emory Adventure Orientation. The popular program gives first-year students an opportunity to bond with future classmates while they camp out under the stars, raft down a river, go rock-climbing, explore caves or go horseback riding along scenic trails.

Each year, about 200 incoming first-year students — more than 10 percent of the class — take part in the program, a whirlwind of 12 different three-day trips starting Aug. 21 just before the start of regular orientation. During the trips, students have the opportunity to make friends and learn about Emory through upperclassmen before facing the pressures of starting college.

And no experience is required: "Much of the program's success comes from the great balance between introducing beginners to the outdoors as well as providing opportunities for further growth for experienced outdoor enthusiasts. Many of our participants have never camped or backpacked before. OEO is here to show them how," says Kevin Kelly, Adventure Orientation co-director.

The Outdoor Emory Organization (OEO), with 400-plus members, is the university's largest student group. Students have organized and run the program since 1991 when it was one of the first orientations of its kind in the country. "It's a great opportunity to connect with people. People I met on my trip two years ago remain good friends today," says Adventure Orientation co-director Alex Phillips.

A few other colleges such as Duke, Dartmouth and the University of Washington run large-scale programs and they are growing in popularity at other schools, Phillips says. The OEO trips are all $185, which includes a year's membership in OEO.

Although Emory is located in the Atlanta metropolis, OEO is one of the largest and most active clubs of its kind in the country. In addition to weekend trips with activities ranging from backpacking to spelunking, OEO is involved in community service. Members regularly participate in outreach activities such as providing opportunities for inner-city Atlanta students to explore the great outdoors. Last year, OEO traveled to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on an international "alternative" spring break trip to build a house for a family there.

Members also get a chance to live in Asbury House, a campus residence designated for OEO that provides housing for nine students and a social meeting center for the group. More information on OEO.

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