Why Lead?

Why Lead FOP?

Becoming a FOP Leader is one of the most meaningful ways you can ensure an exciting and successful transition into Harvard for next year's first-years, and the FOP Leader Community is is one of the most vibrant and supportive communities on campus! To name but a few things that are great about leading FOP: you get to learn lots of useful outdoor skills, go on awesome outdoor adventures, form close bonds with amazing people, enjoy a vibrant close-knit community of fellow leaders on campus, and provide profoundly meaningful experiences and support for first-year students.

Here are what some FOP Leaders have to say about their experience:

The Magic of FOP

Andrew Seo '14

It was a mix of nerves and excitement that I had not felt since the start of college one year ago - a sensation that did not abate until I pulled the last of FOP 15's packs from the bus. I took a look around, at my FOPpers, my co-leader, the trail up ahead. I was waiting for this moment the entire summer; I was finally ready.

Our trip was immediately put to the test: nearly 2,000 feet up in 1.5 miles, next to a waterfall, on a trail fitted with wooden steps and handrails. But the challenge was brilliantly met by eight freshmen with infectious personalities and unbounded enthusiasm.

Even though one of the FOPper's boots ripped at the sole, we had conquered our first test with relative ease.

We were met with innumerable challenges over the next few days, but we never relented—just like that first day on Beaver Brook Trail.

The unquestionable highlight of the trip was when we all decided to emerge from our sleeping bags one evening, actually forgo sleep, and head down to Gordon Pond.

It was a view unlike any I have ever seen before–the stars, the silence, the splendor of it all. I will never forget that night out on Gordon Pond.

From laughing at our unique sense of humor to telling interesting life stories, we were able to establish our own tight knit community out there in the woods.

It made me feel comfortable with the group, leading, and the trip. While FOP teaches you to push your boundaries and challenge yourself, having that sense of closeness was special.

Leading FOP for the first time was an experience unlike any other. And I have my trip, my co-leader, and the greater FOP program to thank.

Being able to lead is a privilege, building strong relationships is a rewarding challenge, and having fun comes naturally. This is the definition of community.

Eight Lessons from Being a FOP Leader that You Should Keep in the Real World

Robert Long '11

1. Leading FOP is great practice for raising kids.

Okay, so at this point I can't possibly know if this is true. But I imagine it is - both parenthood and FOPleaderhood entail bringing vulnerable human beings into a new environment.

You don't get too much time to yourself because you are always on duty; frequent check-ins and good communication with your co-leader are vital; First Aid training comes in handy.

Also, you teach people a new way of pooping - although in parenthood, you teach people how to poop in toilets, and in FOP you teach them how not to.

2. Organize your stuff.

I mean actually organize it. In a helpful way. Not like the Leader Handbook's table of contents and index.

3. Duct tape solves any problem.

It is not limited to just covering blisters and p-tarp holes. Sometimes I use it as underwear. Seriously.

4. Try to live up to your FOPpers' expectations.

Let's face it: sometimes it's really hard to hold it all together. At times like this, it's helpful to think: well, if I really screw up, I might disappoint a FOPper who sees me as a role model.

This may or may not be the case. Would it have affected any of my FOPpers if I didn't finish my thesis?

Probably not (does anyone's thesis affect anything, ever?).

But I told myself that I would let down my FOPpers if I quit, and that got me through a lot.

5. Outside of FOP, it is considered rude to talk about/during your bowel movements.

Just a heads up. We all wish the FOP world could be the real world.

6. The world needs more Fuzzy Cheesecake.

For reasons unknown, it is socially unacceptable to straight-up tell people what you admire about them. (Former anthro concentrators, please take a break from your job at an interfaith environmental non-profit and let me know if this varies across cultures).

Have you ever told your roommate David Johnson '11, "David Robert Johnson, you're one of the most interesting people I've ever met–you combine an enormous amount of knowledge of philosophy and music with an incredible work ethic and a charming Minnesotan humility. You are sexy." I haven't. And I probably won't, unless we eat Fuzzy Cheesecake together.

Fuzzy Cheesecake is one of the few times I've openly told someone how much I like him, and why. The world needs more moments like that.

7. The ladies love a man in FOP flannel.

Just a heads up.

8. You have a lot going for you.

I trained to be a FOP leader at the end of my sophomore year, at a time when I had managed to forget a lot of good things about myself. FOP reminded me of them.

My training trip was an encouraging, restorative experience–a challenge that allowed me to prove myself to myself.

The second half of my college experience was much better than the first, and I don't think that's a coincidence. Harvard can stomp a lot of confidence out of you. FOP can give it back.

FOP is hands-down the most supportive, joyful community at Harvard.

Sure, sometimes FOP leaders are so indefatigably enthusiastic they make Pats fans in Foxborough look staid.

But I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Deissue Day 2009

Jo Doblecki Marks '02, SC '01

Is that chanting I hear in the distance? The faint call and response grows louder as a troop of creatively dressed backpackers turns the corner into Littauer Quad. Beaming faces, lighter packs, a funny, unique odor, and one heck of a shared experience. Within minutes the annual madness of unpacking, cleaning, and returning gear ensues. "De-Issue Day 2009" is officially in full swing.

Call me crazy, but I believe there's something special about De-Issue Day. No, it's not my love for cleaning margarine tubs or scrubbing tarps - it's something deeper than that. Incoming freshman have had their time in the woods, dancing crazy dances, climbing challenging routes, pushing their comfort zones and ultimately forming deep connections with each other. Arriving at Harvard, they are ready to transition to something completely new. This transition is what FOP lives for! Watching the vibrant spirit of the leaders and their groups broadcasting their arrival on campus, I feel an excitement, unlike anything I have found elsewhere. This special energy amongst the leaders, a shared passion for the program and its purpose, brings everything to another level. It was a privilege to return this year, and selfishly it felt good to be re-energized by that unique FOP spirit.

"I worked with some of the most wonderful people I have ever met, learned a lot about education, responsibility and even more about myself."

Since leaving Harvard and transitioning into the regular working world, I often find myself reflecting upon my FOP experience. As a leader and Steering Committee member, I worked with some of the most wonderful people I have ever met, learned a lot about education, responsibility and even more about myself. I love my career in teaching, but to this day, I have yet to find an environment as warm, creative, supportive, and fun as FOP. Thank you FOP - I love you!