News Release: , Student Life

Aug. 12,  2009

Emory Freshmen Take a Hike Into College

News Article ImageA kayaking trip helps freshmen connect.

While many of their future classmates are finding their way around campus, other Emory University freshmen will throw on backpacks and hike 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 ride horses along scenic trails.

Each year, about 200 incoming first-year students – more than 10 percent of the class – take part in the program, which this year includes a whirlwind of 15 different three-day trips starting Aug. 28 the weekend after classes start. During the trips, students have the opportunity to make friends and learn about Emory through upperclassmen.

“It connects people in every way - people you wouldn't normally meet in your social circle, people outside your freshman hall, people who you can share a unique experience with that brings them together,” says senior Kristen Jensen who took a sea-kayaking trip along the Georgia coast. “I can't even stress enough how amazing this experience was and how important it was to my transition to college. It made me feel so much more comfortable with the idea of college.”

And no experience is required: "Much of the program's success comes from the great balance between introducing beginners to the outdoors while providing opportunities for further growth for experienced outdoor enthusiasts. Many of our participants have never camped or backpacked before," says Mary Vess, president of Outdoor Emory Organization (OEO) and co-director of Adventure Orientation.

Students have organized and run the program since 1991 when it was one of the first orientations of its kind in the country. OEO currently is working with the Emory Alumni Association to raise funds to provide scholarships for more students to take part in the orientation.

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. The OEO trips are all $185, which includes a year's membership in OEO and a T-shirt.

Although Emory is located in the Atlanta metropolis, OEO is one of the largest and most active clubs of its kind in the country; with 400-plus members, it is the university's largest student group.  In addition to weekend trips with activities ranging from backpacking to spelunking, OEO is involved in community service, including trail cleanups and Habitat for Humanity builds.

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