FOP, the pre-orientation orientation (1/30 @ MIT)
“Did you do an FPOP?”
Me: “Yeah, I did FOP”
Me: “No, F-O-P. The outdoors program.”
FPOPs are pre-orientation camps that are optional for prefrosh.
The number of times I had this conversation is astounding. Few people know about what I did the week leading up to orientation and it’s really an under-appreciated FPOP. But, FOP is not for the faint-hearted. I had to hold my poop for an entire day before I had access to a toilet. It was definitely not for people who’ve never been outside. Also, we couldn’t shower, and I felt bad for the people taking the subway when our entire group came back to campus…
FOP is short for the Freshman Outdoors Program. It’s a 5-day long kayaking adventure in Boston’s harbor. We pack all the food beforehand and only refill our water reserves occasionally. During the trip, we kayak to different islands (some without toilets and running water) and just spend time in nature. Obviously, we can’t take our phones (rip my Snapchat streaks) and get pretty comfortable with our clothes. FOP had 20 people split into 2 groups. I never saw the other group after we left the harbor. Every day that week, we had to navigate to other islands, carry our boats inland, cook our own food, wash our dishes, and assemble our tents. There was always something new to cook every day so we never got bored with eating.
All the islands were fun to explore. But my favorite island was Calf island. It was the farthest island we went to. Unfortunately, it was also small and had no toilets or water. Hundreds of empty bottles littered the shoreline while a semi-dense forest surrounded a chimney with a foundation of a house that used to be. But the view was the reason I liked it. At night, we saw the airplanes slowly descend into the harbor, the bright haze of Boston, and the stars that dotted the black sky. It was beautiful.
Once orientation ended, it seemed that everyone I met did FLP (Freshman Leadership Program). It was the biggest FPOP by far and so it always develops a clique since they all know each other a week before everyone else gets on campus. It was like the ‘cool’ program. I actually put it as first on my FPOP application but didn’t get in. At first, I was still a bit salty that I wasn’t able to do my first preference, but now I’ve realized: there aren’t many people who have an experience like mine and FLP didn’t even seem that novel.
If I would do if I did it over again:
I think choosing FOP was a good decision and was lucky that FLP didn’t accept me. I had so much fun and now every time I fly out I can see the tiny islands that I kayaked and set foot to. Not many people have. Also definitely do an FPOP before. It’s nice to get to know a few people before orientation and rush hits.