Tuesday July 22, 2014  

Outdoor Action - Making a Difference


What Participants Have to Say

The Outdoor Action Program us the single most effective socially-oriented program that Princeton offers with regard to the adjustment of new students and the opportunity, throughout one’s Princeton experience, to meet other Princetonians. 
– Ryan Salvatore ’02

I have only been at this University for a few months, but I already call it home. This is due in large part to Princeton University’s Outdoor Action Program. Being a part of the Freshmen Trip this summer helped ease a lot of the uncertainty and confusion that accompany such an overwhelming transition, as the one from high school to college usually is. My leaders helped me feel comfortable not only in a backwoods setting, but also among eight complete strangers. With the pressure of what to wear and who to talk to out of the way, I was able to settle into myself with ease and get to know eight great people. 
– Anna Evans ’03

My first encounter with Princeton Outdoor Action was my Freshman Trip. Going in, I honestly had no idea of what type of people would join me at Princeton, how I should act, and whether or not the school was truly a good fit for me. From Day One, I realized that I had made the correct choice, for not only had I formed a bond with nine other students, I had already in a sense oriented myself to Princeton life through my leaders guidance and felt that my adjustment to campus life was that much smoother. 
– Brandon Hall ’02

I think the trip was the best thing that could have happened to me. I learned more about myself and Princeton and got to know 10 terrific people. It made the transition to college a whole lot easier.

My first experience at Princeton University was an Outdoor Action Freshman Trip. I can see now, more than a year later, that it was one of my most valuable experiences at the University. Outdoor Action did far more than introduce me to ten of my future classmates. It has provided the opportunity for me to interact with fellow students outside of the academic environment. Encountering the beauty and challenges of nature with an OA group provides for an intense and meaningful sense of camaraderie that is difficult to find during the pressures of classes. I have also learned numerous skills from Outdoor Action--first aid, hiking, minimal impact camping, cross-country skiing and kayaking are examples. I was changed from a city dweller with no outdoor experience to a camper with a greater sense of respect for the environment. I don't think I would have learned this without Outdoor Action.

No other activity at Princeton has offered me the camaraderie and the opportunity to make close friendships as quickly as OA. In a place whose atmosphere is all too often characterized by pressure and anxiety, Princeton could use an even larger Outdoor Action Program.

Quite simply, the Outdoor Action Program provides one of the most positive experiences for students at Princeton. On my Freshman Trip, my leaders told me that the trip would be one of the best times I had at the University or at least with Princeton students. They were right. And with every OA trip I have taken since, their words remain true. The greatest strength of the Outdoor Action Program arises from the fact that it offers the opportunity for Princeton students to get to know each other outside of the often tense and busy University environment.

OA is one of the most organized programs I have ever taken part in. Also its selection and training of leaders is excellent as the leaders are as supportive and caring as is possible to be. Personally, the trip was a great challenge that I overcame with tremendous support. If this is representative of the way in which Princeton thrives, I know that the next four years will be the very best ones of my life.

I loved the experience-the group awareness and bonding ultimately caused individual growth for every group member, I'm sure. The last night, when our group spent three or more hours discussing each individual, it was so spectacular to be able to view oneself through the mirrors held up by others. The group was helpful to me in that it lessened my fears about the social scene at Princeton-getting to know nine wonderfully interesting and caring people.

I believe that the trip was the best possible way for me to begin my time at Princeton. I had the most wonderful time and I know I will stay close to the friends I made. The planning was incredible and I am so thankful to everyone who made this possible.

[OA] outdid all of my expectations. I had a fabulous time. My group was great and we really hit it off. I think I made some great friends, a few of whom I expect will become very close friends. The Outdoor Action program was an extremely valuable experience and one I will not soon forget. The trip surpassed all of my expectations. It was an extremely positive experience. It was also a great introduction to a small portion of the Princeton community, which is incredible in its talent, diversity, and perspective. I made some friendships that I expect will last through my four years here and possibly longer.

The trip was a wonderful experience. My group was a conglomerate of very diverse people. Had we all not been thrown together in the wilderness for six days I probably wouldn't have met and become friends with most of them. Every member of my group contributed to the trip's greatness in a different way. I think it was a great way to begin Princeton because not only do you meet a bunch of people, but the trip also allowed me a lot of time to think and become in touch with myself.

OA was fantastically organized with a meticulous approach to safety and fun. I am an urbanite. Though I still am a victim of time and cement, I have gained a new respect for wilderness and group cooperation. I am thrilled to have had this experience with eleven others whom I now recognize as close friends. In a word, thanks!!

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What Leaders Have to Say

I have made it through seven OA trips, four of them as a leader. Prior to my Frosh Trip, I had never been camping before. Now I am searching for outdoor education jobs and planning a through-hike of the Appalachian Trail in the summer of 2001. OA has literally changed by life. I have become tougher both mentally and physically. I have more self-confidence, more initiative, more determination. But I have also become more sensitive to others, more flexible, more compassionate and understanding. I can say without hesitation that of all my experiences at Princeton in the last three and a half years, my participation in OA has done the most to make me a better person. OA needs and deserves your support. Please make sure that others have the same opportunities that I had

- Bryan Seeley ’00

Leading [an OA Trip] turned out to be an extremely valuable experience for me. I had never led a group of students my own age before. On my Frosh Trip, I had to lead a group of 10 freshmen, who were only 1-2 years younger than me. And it was great! They respected my decisions as a leader, and did everything they could to help. I owe a lot of the success [of the trip] to the leader training courses. I felt much more comfortable in the wild, and was able to share the wonderful experience of OA with 10 wonderful freshmen. The leading experience also greatly helped me with my sports career. I am a member of the Women's Varsity Fencing Team, and I was Epee squad leader. Both the Women's captain and I are OA Leaders adn we use many of the facilitation tactics we learned in OA to lead the team. It is remarkable how much OA has helped us to become stronger people, and how we are constantly applying the skills we learn to everyday life.

- Kristiina Hurme’01

It is hard to explain the magic of Outdoor Action to someone who has never participated in the program. OA does so many wonderful things for so many people—cultivates love and respect for the natural world, brings together students who probably would never have met on campus, and gives freshmen a warm, personal introduction to Princeton—that you would need a letter from every leader and participant on campus to understand the full range of OA’s reach.

As for me, I decided to do leader training because I wanted to be for future classes what my Frosh Trip leader had been for me: a listener, a comforter, an advisor, a friends. I led my first Frosh Trip in the fall of ’99 and had a fabulous time. When we returned to campus at the end of the week, I was so proud that my co-leaders and I had been able to pull the whole thing off. We had gone into the woods with tender feet, apprehensions about the trip, and ten nervous freshmen; we returned with blisters, priceless memories, and ten new friends.

Trips like this are one of the best things about OA, but being an OA leader isn’t all about knowing knots and first aid. It’s about expanding the boundaries of your little on-campus world to include people that you never would have approached in the dining hall, and expanding your understanding of people and their relationships. It’s learning about yourself—your strengths and your limitations. It’s about developing new abilities, then challenging yourself to believe in your own competence. The things I have learned through OA are not the things I could have learned from the finest of professors; they are lessons that necessarily originate from within. They can only be learned through the synthesis of people, ideas, hearts; for me that is the magic of OA.

- Lisa Webster ’01

In evaluating my past four years at Princeton, I would attribute the greater party of my personal growth and leadership development to the Outdoor Action Program. Especially in the initial years at Princeton, OA offers a diverse support network of cross-grade friendships, social and academic role models, and above all, a positive alternative to the alcohol scene. As a freshman from the West coast, I arrived in New Jersey uneasy about living away from home, establishing friendships, and finding extracurricular activities in a place I know little about. Yet, at the end of the Frosh trip, I could hardly wait to set foot on campus. Any fears of being unprepared or inadequate for college life were quelled by simply interacting with other students in a positive environment, before being exposed to a campus atmosphere.

Beyond the Frosh Trip, Outdoor Action provides a type of training which would otherwise be unavailable on campus: positive character building through leadership training. While organizations such as the Undergraduate Student Government, the Student Volunteers Council, and various sports teams acknowledge the importance of leadership experiences, they do not necessarily actively train and evaluate their participant’s skills in group dynamics.

As a Frosh Trip Leader, a member of the OA Executive Committee, and a leader trainer, I have learned how to build a student’s self-confidence, work cohesively with people of all ages and backgrounds, and, at the same time, maintain connections with underclassmen. On my last leader training trip, I realized that my leadership style is till evolving and improving with each trip. I think that the confidence and leadership inspired by my participation in OA has enabled me to pursue positions of greater responsibility. Last year I proposed and led an international service trip to Ecuador and next year I will be serving in Uganda as part of Princeton-in-Africa.

- Hayley Hawes ’00

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What Alumni(ae) Have to Say

Outdoor Action continues to be an important learning experience for many students at Princeton. Its wilderness activities offer a unique opportunity for building a sense of community across the campus. The Climbing to New Heights Campaign will consolidate the growth that has made Outdoor Action a meaningful part of extracurricular life at Princeton.
- President Harold Shapiro

Outdoor Action provides a critical balance to undergraduate life, which is too frequently out of touch with the natural world. The opportunity to experience a closeness with the great outdoors is a crucial restorative.
- Josh Miner '43, Founding Trustee of Outward Bound USA

Among the many good things that Outdoor Action does is to bring groups of first-year students together in various terrains for canoe trips, backpacking, and the like, before they start school-a fine way to begin four years at Princeton.
- John McPhee '52, author, Ferris Professor of Journalism and Public Relations, Pulitzer Prize Winner 1999

OA's real success lies in the quality of its activities. OA programs promote friendship and understanding among races, socioeconomic groups, age groups and nationalities, in a way that no academic program could ever parallel, and in a way which social life on the Princeton Campus rarely, if ever, provides. The values of social responsibility, and the quality of our environment, of leadership, sensitivity, humility, and restraint in the face of adverse conditions and a plurality of views, are issues that surface on every OA trip, at every stage of its planning and execution. In other words, outdoor recreation, as practiced by OA at Princeton, is part of what education is all about.
- Dimitri Gondicas '78, Director, Hellenic Studies Program

The Outdoor Action program has established itself as a rich contributor to the total Princeton experience. One of the University's historic sources of strength has been the diversity of its offerings. That diversity also characterizes Outdoor Action: incoming freshmen are offered energizing outdoor travel and adventure experiences that develop friendships, strengthen community, teach skills, and offer new fields of challenge. All students (and now alumni and staff) are offered opportunities for outdoor activity and learning, skills training, opportunities for leadership development, and simply healthy, enjoyable, shared activities.

I work in the field of experiential education and know many Princeton graduates who have parlayed their Outdoor Action experiences into career directions. I know of many more who have simply enjoyed a more balanced and energized Princeton experience thanks to Outdoor Action. The commitment and drive of Outdoor Action's leadership is impressive. Outdoor Action is clearly here to stay, and the Princeton experience is richer for its existence.
- Tino O'Brien '65, former staffing director, Hurricane Island Outward Bound School

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