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Getting Oriented A sneak peek at a summer college visit

This week I start classes at St. John’s University in New York, and this summer, I attended my new student orientation. Here’s what I learned.

Going into orientation, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I’d heard from people who had attended previous sessions a few of the activities we could be expected to endure, but for the most part I was going in blind.

As I arrived in New York, I felt a feeling of excitement rush through me. Partially because I was so close to my favorite city, and partially because I was on time for once. Unfortunately for that dream of being on time, it hit reality when my dad suggested stopping for breakfast. I ended up being 30 minutes late.

As I stepped on campus and said goodbye to my dad, I got a glimpse of my very near future on my own. The feeling of empowering independence was quickly lost when I realized I had to lug my suitcase up two flights of stairs.

After a quick mirror check, I felt picture ready for my student ID card. I sat down, smiled, and confidently waited for what I was sure was my first successful ID photo. If you know me, you know my driver’s permit, and license both ended up looking like mug shots so I was determined to avoid the same thing happening a third time. When my name was called I grabbed my ID with excitement, only to realize my photo appeared as though I were wearing no shirt. Confused, I looked down and realized this was not the day for a strapless top.

After harping on my ID for a few minutes I dropped my bags off and went to the first session, during which we were put in our groups. Most of orientation was spent with our groups. Our first activity was playing “mind games” which was code for standing in a field looking at our orientation leaders with confusion for 20 minutes as we tried to crack the code to each game.

Later we headed to lunch where I got my first taste of college dining. While I wouldn’t say it was exquisite, I genuinely felt at the time it wasn’t terrible. Then again I only had a salad and curly fries. After lunch, we were taken to the university’s on-campus church for a moment of meditation. Though I usually find myself having to stifle laughter (for no reason in particular) in silent settings, I found that this was a good time to catch up on my breathing. Those of you with an Apple Watch may find yourselves consistently ignoring those “take a minute to breathe,” alerts as I typically do. I don’t have time for that, I usually think when I see the breathe symbol pop up. But this time in the church felt like a good time to meditate.

Following our zen time, we went to the cafeteria for dinner. As we waited for what seemed like forever to be called to eat, I sat and got to know some of my group members. When we finally got to eat, we bonded over our distaste for cafeteria food and our love for Belgian waffles. Though I was disappointed to find there were no waffles at breakfast the following morning, I was mildly pleased to find that the coffee was a notch above average.

All in all, orientation was a good peek into college life. Everyone was welcoming, and helpful throughout the entire experience. All orientation leaders are all current students so they were able to give a relatable perspective on college life, and a good image of what can be expected. Most students don’t know anybody going into college, so it’s important to remember that we’re all in the same boat. Everyone is looking to make friends, so if you’re like me, and not so outgoing, this is a good chance to step out of your comfort zone and try to start friendships.

Once it was over, and I had time to reflect on the experience I realized that I got much more out of it than I anticipated. Though I still had a few questions on my mind: Who would I eat with everyday? Will this place eventually feel like home, or simply an extended overnight camp? Can I double major and still graduate in four years?

All in all, orientation was a good peek into college life. Most students don’t know anybody going into college, so it’s important for students to remember (and maybe their parents occasionally remind them) that we’re all in the same boat. We’re all newbies.

I met a lot of the people I had connected with on social media, including some of my soon-to-be suitemates. Everyone was welcoming, and helpful throughout the entire experience. All orientation leaders are all current students so they were able to give a relatable perspective on college life, and a good image of what can be expected. Through this experience I was able to get answers to a lot of my questions, get a feel for the campus, and meet a lot of people who I’ll be going to school with, in the fall.

I’m really looking forward to getting back on campus and starting classes soon, and getting to know my new classmates more. Most people say college is the time you form most lasting friendships, and I can’t wait to find the friends I’ll carry through the rest of my life.

About Victoria Harvey

Baltimore's Child Staff

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