While many incoming students were busy preparing for their first day of college — whether it be purchasing dorm room décor, saying last goodbyes to high-school friends or making trips to Costco to stock up on last minute food items — a group of 26 freshmen did something a little different: They spent some time getting up close and personal with the wild side of Bellingham.

   Through the Associated Students Outdoor Center, the Western Outdoor Orientation Trip, or WOOT, offered incoming freshmen the chance to go on five to six-day kayaking, backpacking or climbing trips. As of now, the program is only available to freshmen at the start of fall quarter.
The goal of the program was for students to not only form a group of friends before heading to college, but to also experience the many outdoor activities Bellingham has to offer, said Eric Messerschmidt, Outdoor Center excursions coordinator.

   “It’s amazing that in just five days, it really does feel like a long time, especially for those who have maybe never spent time in the woods or out in the water or climbing,” said Katy Howell, Outdoor Center excursions assistant coordinator. “Often the feedback we get is that it flies by and students feel like they’ve formed really long-lasting, deep friendships.”

   The program is in its second year at Western, and Howell and Messerschmidt hope to see the program expand by offering more trips each year.