College of the Atlantic students on an Outdoor Orientation Programs (OOPS) trip relax in the cool waters of Northern Maine.College of the Atlantic students on an Outdoor Orientation Programs (OOPS) trip relax in the cool waters of Northern Maine. Credit: Erica Allen (’17)

At most universities, orientation week is essentially the same: in between the school policies and campus tours, there are ice breakers, an interesting speaker or two, a lot of school spirit and, apparently, plenty of hypnotists. But beyond the programs’ shared foundations, some colleges are featuring less traditional programs to acclimate students to their new homes.

At the College of the Atlantic in Maine, orientation begins with a weeklong outdoor trip with a small group of about 10 students and two student leaders. The college of 350 students has only one major, human ecology, in which students choose their own curriculum.

Students can choose trips with a variety of difficulties, from canoeing down the Allagash river or sea kayaking around Frenchman Bay to rock climbing in Acadia national park. Senior Julie Bowser said it was a weeklong bonding experience. “Every trip will come back with their own social code or inside jokes,” she said.

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