Kendall and Marissa's Blog:
Prior to the start of the school year, First Years' Kendall Jean and Marissa Zheng participated in the Harvard College First-Year Outdoor Pre-Orientation Program (FOP). FOP is Harvard's largest and oldest pre-orientation program. 400+ participants explore New England's finest forests, mountains, and lakes in small groups. FOP is not just a six-day outdoor trip; it is an opportunity to build community, reflect on future hopes for college, and enter into college with both confidence and a network of close friends. Trips are designed for all levels of experience and fitness, and are led by trained and experienced Harvard College students. Below are Kendall's and Marissa's reflections on their FOP experiences.
Kendall Jean's Reflection on FOP:
For pre-orientation, I chose to go on the First-Year Outdoor Program. Through FOP, I have met so many people and made lasting connections with people I likely would have otherwise not met. For my FOP trip (FOP 80), we traveled up to Maine where we hiked the Grafton Loop Trail which later linked into the Appalachian Trail. While the trip itself can be daunting, the experiences I had and the relationships I made will remain long after the memory of the difficult parts of the hike has passed. I have truly never grown closer to a group of people in such a short amount of time as I have with my FOP group. Coming into Harvard with another friend circle (besides the softball team) definitely helped ease my anxieties about not making friends. Not to mention, the views from the hike were incredible as well. On my hike, we summitted Puzzle Mountain, Long Mountain, Bald Pate, and Surplus Mountain. Along with these incredible summits, there were also several waterfalls we found along the way. I highly recommend any upcoming freshman do FOP because not only are the relationships worthwhile, the views as well as the surrounding nature are a great source of grounding and relaxation before the beginning of the school year.
Marissa Zheng's Reflection on FOP:
Looking back on FOP, it's one of the best ways to transition into life at college and away from home. I did the Wilderness Switch trip which consisted of 2.5 days of canoeing and 2.5 days of backpacking. There were times when it became physically uncomfortable, our feet were wet, it rained, it was cold at times, and the backpacking could be strenuous, but it was never overwhelming. And these discomforts are a small price to pay for what could be one of the best decisions you make freshman year. My FOP group became like a family in just the 6 days we were together. There are no distractions with technology, work, school, or any other obligations. Our leaders didn't even tell us the time. It's incredibly freeing, and it helped clear my mind so that I could truly enjoy myself in nature and around some great people. Since we didn't have any distractions, we talked a lot about anything and everything from sports to very personal experiences. I got to genuinely know my group and trust them, and this creates relationships that I can see lasting for many years. I see some of my FOP friends almost every day, we have classes or meals together, and our entire group has already planned a ton of reunions for this year. I've made many friends outside of FOP since we started school, but it's incredibly comforting knowing that I have a group of 11 people I can text or call if I ever need anything or want to hang out.