Alumna Lauren Larrabee (in turquoise jacket at center) and her group gather before beginning their month-long backpacking trip in India. They hiked at least eight miles every day. The National Outdoor Leadership School trip was part of her curriculum at Colorado College, where she will begin studying in January.

FRESHMAN FOCUS: Lauren Larrabee hikes in Himalayas, interns at TripAdvisor in New York City before a winter start at Colorado College

Find out what the members of the class of 2015 are up to in their first year of college. A college freshman is featured in the Freshman Focus every Friday.  

Lauren Larrabee, ‘15, is currently interning at TripAdvisor, Inc., in New York City. She will be starting at Colorado College in January. There she will major in environmental biology and minor in photography. As part of her curriculum, she went to India for a month through the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).

Q: What is NOLS, and how did you get involved in that program?

A: NOLS is a program that allows students to travel to these amazing places, like Europe, Africa and India, to learn about the outdoors and other cultures.

I was accepted to CC (Colorado College) with a winter start, so I knew I had a free semester. I went onto the website, and I looked at the credit options.

Originally I wanted to go to the NOLS program in Europe, but I couldn’t get in.

Then I saw the option where I could go backpacking in all of these cool places. I’ve always loved backpacking and the outdoors.

Going to India would give me the opportunity to go somewhere drastically different from anywhere else I’ve been to.

Larrabee hikes through a small village called Hymni.
(Photo used by permission of Larrabee)
Lauren Larrabee hikes through a small village called Hymni.

Q: What did you do in India?

A: Even though it was monsoon season and it rained, we hiked a lot, at least eight miles every day. We’d go through many villages, specifically Rhanikhet and Utterkand. There, we would meet shepherds who would help us go the right way.

(The people) were so gracious. They lived in poverty, worked the fields all day, didn’t even have shoes, and yet they’d give us their fruits, vegetables and energy.

No one spoke English, so we had to learn basic Hindi to talk to them.

Q: How long were you there?

A: The plan was for 85 days, but plans changed. After a month of backpacking in the Himalayas, I had anaphylaxis (a sudden and severe allergic reaction) and my throat swelled up. I was evacuated to the camp, where I stayed for a week. Four days later I had another allergic reaction and was evacuated to America early.

Q: Wow! Why did you have anaphylaxis?

A:  I am extremely allergic to nuts. If you touch a nut and then touch me, my body will react. There was a shepherd who hiked with us and who ate some cashews. He carried everyone’s backpacks, and I must’ve touched the part that he did. The second time, I sat in this area that had walnut shells in it from the monkeys.

Q: How was the food?

A: We learned how to cook traditional Indian food: vegan, no meat. We had Indian bread (roti), curry and vegetables every evening.

We had rice for breakfast too. We’d make our own breakfast with portable stoves and pans. For 10 minutes every hour, we had snacks.

Q: What was your favorite part of India?

A: At the end of every day, before we set up our tents and after we set up camp and cooked our dinner, we’d have meetings around the campfire. There we’d tell our life stories but be in the middle of nowhere, where we could see the Milky Way and shooting stars. There were probably  seven every minute.

Larrabee and her cousin, Kelsey Blodget, '04, stand outside the office building where Larrabee interns for TripAdvisor in SoHo, New York.
(Photo used by permission of Larrabee)
Larrabee and her cousin, Kelsey Blodget, ’04, stand outside the office building where Larrabee interns for TripAdvisor in SoHo, New York.

Q: What business are you interning for?

A:, a travel website. I’m working on a travel photography project for their app and website. It’s really cool but highly confidential.

Q: What made you interested in photography?

A: I have been doing photography since I was 8. I used to just take pictures of people, but then I came back to my cousin (Kelsey Blodget, ‘04) and asked her if she had any internships, and she had this one available.

Q: What’s it like in New York?

A: It’s a very drastic change from India! I take the subway every day to and from work. I see some of my Country Day friends at NYU by the subway. There’s great food everywhere. But it’s so cold here.

Q: Why did you decide to attend CC?

A: My brother (Tyler Larrabee, ‘09) went there, so I knew about it. I also like the schedule. I take one class every three-and-a-half weeks, with a four-day break in between. They have an amazing swim team, which I am a part of. I also love the vibe on campus.

Q: What are the positives of a small liberal arts school?

A: I think it’s so much more personal. Closer relationship to profs, smaller classes – it’s a very awesome learning environment. In bigger colleges some profs don’t even know your name. Instead of being another person at some university, people know you are someone. You aren’t just drowning in a sea full of people.

Q: Do you recommend taking a semester (or a year) off before starting college?

A: Yes I recommend it! I don’t think I would be as prepared (for college) and as mature if I started in the fall. I took a life-changing trip and gained a lot of maturity. Anyone can do that! So go explore the world.

—By Chardonnay Needler

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