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From sea to Sierra, Orientation Adventure offers Class of 2010 a chance to experience outdoors and make friends before school starts.

Before hitting the books, first-year students at Pomona College got a chance to learn to surf, sail on a tall ship, or hike piney mountain trails to Yosemite's famous Half Dome. Orientation Adventure is more than a chance to explore California's strikingly varied scenery. It gives newcomers to Pomona College a chance to build friendships in the outdoors before the school year even begins.

About 500 first-year students, trip leaders, faculty and staff members just returned from four-day adventures across the state. What sets Pomona’s program apart is the number of trips students can choose from. There are about a dozen, ranging from community service in Los Angeles, to kayaking off the Channel Islands to backpacking in the Sierras.

OA originated about a decade ago when a group of students from the On the Loose outdoors club approached Dean of Students Ann Quinley with the idea, and she collaborated with them to make it happen. OA has greatly expanded in recent years, since the College made OA part of the Orientation program for all students and that continues this year. (Previously, anywhere from one half to two-thirds of the first-year students participated in OA.)

The only drawback: most trips departed in the wee morning hours, which can be a little rough for students adjusting to dorm life. But don't worry: OA organizers usually have runners assigned to head to the dorms and rouse students who have overslept and would otherwise miss the trip. “I’m alive, awake, alert and enthusiastic!,” goes the chant.

And when it comes to grub, there are no shades of "Survivor." Hungry hikers and surfers are well-fed. Nutella, that delectable hazelnut spread with hints of cocoa, is the most popular item. Another OA essential is Peeps, those sticky-sweet marshmallow treats that pop up in stores before Easter. They've become an OA tradition, and organizers buy them up during the spring to secure an adequate supply.