It’s been a whirlwind of firsts for the first-year Class of 2026, starting with Opening Day on Aug. 31 right on through to the first classes of the academic year a week later.

In between were AESOP trips, the first meetings of First-Year Seminars, and Convocation, marking the official opening of the academic year.

After a damp morning of moving in, the clouds broke and students and their families enjoyed a picnic lunch in the sun.

By mid-afternoon, campus puddles were gone, and everyone headed to the Historic Quad to hear welcomes from Leigh Weisenberger, vice president for enrollment and dean of admission and financial aid, President Clayton Spencer.

“Whatever path has brought you here, I want to welcome you to Bates with joy, and warmth, and arms wide open,” she said. “Students, I wish you all good things as you meet your classmates and your professors, and settle in. Families, safe travels home.”

After goodbyes and hugs, and some tears, the Class of 2026 got ready for the myriad experiences awaiting them.

Thursday and Friday were spent getting a taste of academics in First-Year Seminar gatherings. Then came with three days and two nights of AESOP adventures on and off campus, the first overnight trips since 2019.

All compass points were covered: north to Baxter State Park, west to the White Mountains, east to Acadia National Park, and south to Portland. Not to mention nearby trips, to Nezinscot Farm and Lewiston-Auburn itself, exploring the Androscoggin River and the Great Falls, Museum L-A, and the Basilica of St. Peter and Paul.

Surfing, knitting, drawing and painting, and digging potatoes were just a few of the activities they enjoyed, reflecting a re-designed AESOP program, including affinity-based trips, to make AESOP more accessible and inclusive.

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