In 2008, a group of UR Outing Club members came up with the idea of doing an orientation trip for freshmen–a few days of outdoor adventure with their new peers before settling into college life. Determined to make their idea a reality, the group became a branch of the Outing Club and eventually evolved into their very own organization–University of Rochester Freshmen Orientation Outing Treks, known by most today as UR FOOT.
While this group may not be the most well-known on campus, it has grown rapidly over the years. This year, the club’s 101 members organized ten trips for 80 freshmen the weekend before orientation. Each trip had special features designed to meet the different interests and ability levels of incoming freshmen, making UR FOOT an option for both those with little outdoor experience and those who enjoy more extreme excursions.
This year’s trips included day treks at Letchworth Sate Park and Stony Brook State Park, hiking at Allegany State Park, canoeing across the Tupper Lake, a rock climbing trip; a caving trip, hiking on the Mount Marcy and Phelps trails, a cycling trip from the University to Letchworth State Park, and, new this year, trips to Whiteface and Dix Range.
According to junior and UR FOOT co-president Gregory Palis, the group plans to add two more trips next year in an effort to meet the increased demand for their program. This year, 144 freshmen applied to take part in UR FOOT but with only 80 spots available, the group unfortunately had to turn down over 60 applicants. By expanding their trip options, the group hopes that this will not be the case next year.
Every spring, the entire club gathers together to plan trips for the freshmen. New leaders apply and are selected, most of whom were participants themselves as freshmen. The new leaders are then trained for basic outdoor skills, preparing them to be ready to lead their trips in the fall.
Freshman Hannah Gallagher went on the caving trip this year at Chimney Mountain. She described the trip as follows.
“We drove four hours to the place and were split into groups. Then we hiked up to a mountain when it rained and it was hard to start a fire.
So we went back down the mountain to eat and then went back up again and camped up there. When we went into the cave, which was an earthquake cave, we had to wear lots of clothes but still felt cold at first. Later, I felt better and warmer. Everyone [had to have headlamps] you could not even see your fingers close to your eyes.”
Palis was one of the leaders on the caving trip that Gallagher participated in this year, and she found his expertise comforting and impressive. Having previously participated in the caving trip, Palis was able to share his knowledge of the terrain with his “trekkies” and act as a well-informed guide throughout the duration of their trip.
Freshman Anna Hrbac was also a member of Palis’ group and added to Gallagher’s comments, noting how thankful she was to go on the trip and how happy she was to have a chance to make friends before the start of freshmen year.
Freshmen Devin Marino and Ted Hancock participated in the Day Treks trip this year, which included a few easy hiking trips in the Letchworth and Stony Brook State Parks and camping in a log cabin.
Hancock explained that, one night of the trip, all the city people were told to lie down in the middle of the field to look at the stars. Most had never seen the sky without the big city lights and were captivated by the beautiful sky. “They laid down for half an hour to just look at the stars,” Hancock said with a smile on his face.
Marino enjoyed making s’mores and telling ghost stories with his group–he found the trip as a whole to be a memorable experience. “It was a great opportunity that I’m glad I [took],” he said. “[UR FOOT] can help make the transition to college a lot easier.”
Hancock agrees with his peer, noting how amazingly accommodating and helpful his leaders were. Describing them as “liaisons to the University,” Hancock found that he learned a great deal about UR during his trip. “It helped me to become ready for the school,” he said.
According to Palis, only the most experienced, capable, and responsible students are selected as UR FOOT leaders. This year’s staff included Sophomore Mariah Heinzerling, Junior Gina DeMeo, and Sophomore Sara Peterson. All three participated in UR FOOT as freshmen and decided to become leaders after having wonderful personal experiences. Heinzerling and DeMeo consider UR FOOT to be a great bonding experience for all those involved. They believe the treks are a wonderful way for students to settle in before going back to campus for the often overwhelming orientation week.
Peterson commented on how becoming a leader changed her perspective on UR FOOT.
“[Now] I really appreciate how much work goes into making the trip as great as possible for the trekkies,” she said. “URFOOT is a wonderful experience and I hope to lead it again next year.”
UR FOOT is not just about brief one-time trips, no matter how enjoyable. The upperclassmen involved in the organization make an effort to keep the links with the freshmen in their group strong for the entire year as they hope to make the youngest members of the “UR Family” feel welcome in their new home.
Liu is a member of
the class of 2016.