Outdoor trips as part of new-student orientation are nothing new. Into the mid-1900s, new Bates students spent an off-campus day with Harry Rowe to hear the avuncular dean recount Bates tales of old.

Today, the off-campus trips are collectively known as AESOP: “Annual Entering Student Orientation Program.”

AESOP is based in the college’s Student Affairs Office and annually led by three student coordinators. Its mission is simple enough: “To engage and empower every incoming Bates student to be their authentic selves through off-campus, student-led orientation programs.”

Video by Theophil Syslo/Bates College

Mission simple, but the execution is eclectic, fun, and full of what students love: hanging out and getting to know each other.

Typically, outdoor orientation programs are all about the great outdoors: hiking, biking, climbing, kayaking, and otherwise navigating the ups and downs of mountains and lakes and everything in between.

And, for those inclined toward nature, they’re a blast. With an eye on achieving greater equity and inclusivity, the AESOP program leaders have brainstormed and deployed new trips in order to broaden the program.

“We’ve spent the past year curating this year’s programming to reflect the diverse needs and interests of the entire first-year class,” explained senior Alix Zabin of Greenwich, Conn., one of three coordinators along with Erik Malm of Batavia, Ill., and Jack Fruechte of Edina, Minn.

So while this year had the traditional trips like hiking Franconia Ridge and kayaking the Damariscotta River, there were also opportunities to paint riverfront scenes along the Androscoggin, create a movie in 48 hours, find their way out of a Portland escape room, visit local farms, and generally explore the downtown area.