Outdoor Orientation Program Sets Stage for Starting School

Many freshmen can attest to feeling full of trepidation upon encountering a sea of unfamiliar faces their first day on campus.

But when that first college experience is an adventure on an Idaho river with future classmates, it’s a different story. “I was about 40% excited for school and 60% scared. The thought of a new school, new state, all new people, new classes? Terrifying,” said transfer student Anika Baker, who is from Monterey, California. “After six days of getting to know these people and exploring the Lower Salmon River, I was pretty much 100% excited for move-in day.”

Now a junior majoring in environmental science and sociology, Baker was among 24 students who participated over Summer 2021 in Vandal Ventures, University of Idaho’s outdoor orientation program for first-year students. 28 students attended the program in 2022.

Options included whitewater rafting on the Lower Salmon River or hiking near the Seven Devils Mountains. Vandal Ventures helps incoming freshman forge connections, set the tone for being a part of the Vandal Family and discover Idaho’s breathtaking scenery.

The average freshman enters college with two friends. That number rises to 12 for those who participate in an outdoors orientation program. During the trip, staff members lead group discussions about the university’s themes of respect, sustainability, integrity, perseverance and excellence.

“Many of the discussions encouraged us to view this transition in our lives as an opportunity for personal growth and success,” said Baker. “I was comforted with the fact that I would be attending a university that takes time to discuss our personal lives and well-being.”

Joel Beasley, who is from Sterling, Virginia, and majoring in wildlife resources, appreciated the opportunity to have a hiking adventure. He discovered he has classes with some students who were on the trip.

“I hope to stay in touch with them,” he said. “Having a sense of community is important to me because it means I’ll have people to turn to when I am having troubles.” The trip opened other opportunities for Baker, who has become a trip leader with the Outdoor Program and will lead future Vandal Ventures excursions.

“I was able to attend my first day of classes with a positive mindset and confidence that I am right where I’m supposed to be — and that is all thanks to the Vandal Venture trip for being an awesome first impression for the U of I,” Baker said.