By: Orientation Advisor Rachel Harris
As the anxiety builds about going off to college, making a whole new group of friends and leaving home, one of the first things on a student’s mind is having to go to Orientation. It’s the first step into this exciting new life, and introduces a variety of topics of campus life to best prepare you for what to expect when you move into your Residence Hall in the fall. So if it’s your first taste of college life, why not grab the bull by the horns and jump right in? Make as much out of Orientation as you can and try a little bit of everything while you’re on campus. I would have to say that probably the best way to do this is through a Trailblazer trip.
The Trailblazer program is an optional, additional escapade that coordinates with Traditional Orientation to give students a more individualized and personal experience within their first look at college. These trips are specifically designed to bring a group of students together who have similar interests, and give them the opportunity to make connections with their peers in a smaller group setting. It definitely takes the pressure off students to make friends really quick because it’s much easier to connect with someone with less distractions as it would to do the same thing in a room with over two hundred students. Trailblazer trips are broken into two sections centered around community service and outdoor adventures.
Trailblazers in the Community is a fun way for students to make a difference in their community by volunteering at various nearby locations. It opens the door into different student lead volunteer opportunities that happen throughout the year. The TBC trips are broken down depending on how many days students want to stay on campus for their orientation. Before students participate in orientation they can opt to come to campus either one or two days prior and engage in a volunteer opportunity coupled with other fun activities. Past TBC trips have spent time at bike repair shops, soup kitchens, animal shelters, retirement homes, and have helped restore old lighthouses in the area. Apart from all their amazing volunteer work, students get the chance to hang out in this smaller group and play various games on campus, get ice cream in the evening, have bonfires, tie dye shirts, and go mini golfing. There are still several TBC trips open in all three summer sessions. Sign up fast before they’re all full!
The second option of the Trailblazer program is Trailblazers in the Outdoors. TBO is an exciting opportunity for students to meet new friends while exploring what coastal Maine has to offer. These trips also expose students to other outdoor clubs and organizations that are run during the school year. Similar to TBC, the outdoor trips vary depending on how many days the students want to stay on campus in addition to orientation. Students can chose to stay on campus one, two, or three days before orientation starts and engage in various outdoor activities that range from kayaking down the Saco River past the UNE campus, biking the beaches around the school, rock climbing and ziplining on an island in Portland’s Casco Bay, and canoeing and camping on islands in the Wiscasset area. All of these trips offer students a chance to engage with their peers who have similar interests in a smaller setting off campus. It’s a great way to learn about the school in an engaging, interactive environment. There are some spaces left for more students to join in the fun in the outdoors. Like TBC, these trips fill up quick, so if you’re interested, sign up before it’s too late!
Choosing to do a Trailblazer trip was one of the best decisions I made when I came to UNE. I was from out of New England and really felt out of place until I went on my trip. Trailblazers really gave me the chance to come out of my shell and meet new people in a less stressful situation that was off campus, but still had that genuine UNE feel. I loved the program so much that I now lead these trips for incoming first year students and I’ve seen the benefits that come out of participating in a unique experience such as this.