FOOT: The Perfect Introduction to Yale!

“Oom-gala Oom-gala Oom-gala Po! Oom-gala Oom-gala Oom-gala Po! Oom-gala Oom-gala Oom-gala Po!”  

It is move-in day and the sounds of FOOTies fill Old Campus. After four days of backpacking through the wilderness, I am standing in a circle, huddled around ten new best friends, back from an amazing four day adventure: FOOT. 

FOOT, which stands for Freshmen Outdoor Orientation Trip, is a wilderness backpacking and camping pre-orientation experience. All freshmen have the option of doing a pre-orientation program, or not doing one at all. Aside from FOOT, options include Orientation for International Students, Harvest, and Cultural Connections. 

At first I was hesitant to choose FOOT. Would my fellow hikers be tree hugging environmental enthusiasts or Mount Everest climbers? How would I spend four days in the woods without all forms of technology and with ten students I had never met? Would I fit in? Questions flew through my head and led me to doubt my pre-orientation choice. 

Spending four days in the wilderness without showering may not sound like the most pleasant introduction to Yale, but going on FOOT was probably one of my best decisions. When freshmen arrive on campus for FOOT, they are immediately given a group and two upperclassmen leaders. Most groups have nine freshmen that all share similar feelings of excitement and apprehension about spending a few days in the wilderness. My group headed out to the Appalachian Trail along the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts for our adventure. 

FOOT gets kicked off with “Group Games:” everyone heads over to the New Haven Green, located right across the street from Old Campus, to get to know each other. We got to “Ride that Pony,” scream and shout for our residential colleges (go Berkeley!) and show off our awesome themed-clothing. My group’s theme was backwards fashion, so denim and overalls were the norm. 

After a delicious pizza dinner, backpack stuffing, and some evening group bonding, we were off to bed in a cozy suite in Bingham Hall, which houses Calhoun and Trumbull freshmen during the school year. The next morning, all of the FOOTies awoke at dawn for a great first day of hiking ahead. We hopped on the bus, said goodbye to Yale for a few days, and went out into the wilderness. And so, our adventure began! 

FOOT participants pose on the trail with their hiking gear.

Our days were spent hiking on the Appalachian Trail and getting to know each other through games, deep conversations, and Hometowns. Each FOOTie gets to share their “Hometown,” a piece of their life with the group, whether it is about their upbringing, lifestyle, or what they love about home. Everyone stuffs their watches and cell phones at the bottom of their packs, so we live on “FOOT time” (which basically means that it is always “FOOT and a half” o’clock) and we travel just a few “FOOT units” a day. In addition, FOOTies don’t talk about academics on the trip, because after all, we have four full years to do that! 

One of my favorite moments on FOOT was our second to last night of camping in the Berkshires.  After constructing our shelter atop a scenic peak and hiking to a nearby stream to fill up our water bottles, it was time for dinner. FOOT meals are always high in protein, filled with an assortment of spices (get creative!), and quite delicious. That night we boiled a pot of pasta, added three different types of cheeses, and feasted on macaroni and cheese. After finishing the entire pot, my FOOT leaders, Diana and Rory, pulled out a surprise: brownie mix and M&M’s! We mixed both in a pan, cooked them into a gooey treat, and went to bed very happy. 

To sum it up, life is better on FOOT. It is an absolutely perfect introduction to Yale. Spending four or six days in the wilderness with a group of enthusiastic Yalies is an amazing experience. We cooked our own meals, built tents and campsites, ate tons of GORP, and learned remarkable things about our fellow FOOTies. And when we arrived back to campus, we had ten best friends and four years of fun ahead. Welcome to Yale!

Four "FOOTies" arm-in-arm on a mountainside.