For those of you who are incoming freshpeople, soon to be arriving at Oberlin for the rite of passage that is Orientation, we know that the experience can seem really high-stakes and overwhelming. Rest assured that you are not the only person feeling that way; everyone else who will sit beside you in Finney Chapel, eat an awkward meal with you in Stevie, and ask about your hometown in the coming days is also having those apprehensions.
While everyone approaches orientation differently, lots of people have similar concerns going into college-- will I make friends? Will I pick the right classes? Will I be best friends with my roommate or will they ruin my life? Well, we know that you're probably sick of hearing the two of us go on and on about the same things (I'm willing to bet that "will Brendan ever stop talking about Chinese?" is a question that has gone through your head if you've kept up on this blog) for 25 posts. To make things a little more interesting, we've recruited 6 of our friends to answer some questions about their orientation experiences along with us. Between the 8 of us, we definitely have a wide variety of backgrounds, personalities, and experiences, so our orientation experiences weren't all the same. Of course, a sample size of 8 isn't very reliable, and everyone's experiences vary, so your orientation experience could be entirely different!
If you're in the class of Oberlin 2020, your orientation starts tomorrow (!), so hopefully this will help answer some questions you might have. Good luck!
If you could explain your orientation experience in one word, what would it be?
Sasha: A blur. I am going into my fourth year at Oberlin now and I honestly don't have a clear picture of what orientation was like. I remember my mom dropping me off, going almost everywhere with my roommate, feeling like a lost puppy at a disorientation party, and wondering what "Decafe" and "Gibson's" were.
Ian: Overwhelming- There's so many new things happening at once during orientation that it can be very overwhelming. It can be really fun, but also very tiring trying to settle into a new environment while also trying to make new friends, and get ready for your upcoming classes.
Grace: A whirlwind.
Leah: Overwhelming. I don't deal well with change, and moving away to college was one of the biggest changes I had experienced in my life up to that point. I was simultaneously homesick, scared, excited, lost, lonely, and exhausted every single day during orientation, and it was difficult to function while feeling all of those emotions at once.
Brendan: Fun. While orientation was really nerve-wracking at first, I ended up enjoying a lot of great activities and meeting a lot of interesting new people.
Frances: Nerve-wracking. I was really worried about making friends and adjusting to Oberlin, but I remember the experience getting a lot easier once my parents left and I just did the thing.
What's one thing you wish you had done differently during orientation?
Sasha: Hmm, I don't really regret much about orientation, it's an important time to start settling in and getting to know Oberlin, but that's also what all of Freshman year is about. I don't think we should overhype orientation as a critical period that has to entail certain achievements or experiences.
Emma: I should have figured out where the nice bathrooms on campus were much earlier than I did.
Ian: I wish I had gone to more of the events. Every time I saw something interesting on the schedule, I either decided not to go because none of my tentative orientation friends were going, or I felt tired or overwhelmed and decided to miss it. Looking back, I wish I had been a little more willing to get involved in orientation.
Grace: I wish I had gone/done things that didn't seem interesting at the time because orientation is a great time to try out new things.
Leah: My roommate (who is still my roommate this year) and I spent most of orientation in our room, hiding and avoiding having to interact anything or anyone new. We didn't attend many events, didn't meet our neighbors or dorm-mates, and didn't even talk to each other very much that week. We succeeded in shutting out the outside world, but our self-imposed seclusion meant that it took us longer than most people we ended up meeting to feel comfortable at Oberlin. I think that both my roommate and I would go back in time to force ourselves to get out of our room and have new experiences during orientation, no matter how awkward, nervous, and shy we may have felt.
Sami: I wish I had checked out more groups and clubs. For instance, The Oberlin Review is going to have an open house, and it's the type of event I wish I had attended during orientation!
Brendan: I was honestly pretty satisfied with my orientation experience, but I guess I wish I had been nicer to my roommate from the start. My roommate and I really did not get along at all, and probably some of that stemmed from bad first impressions. While I'm glad I wasn't invested in trying to make my roommate into my best friend, I definitely could have done a better job of trying to coexist without starting unnecessary fights.
Frances: I wish that I had forced myself to be more outgoing in general. I'm pretty introverted, so orientation was pretty socially taxing, but I think in that sense I should have tried to be not like myself (probably the only time I should ever do this!!) and at least pretended to be more of a social butterfly, at least during orientation so that I had more experiences and met more people.
Do you have any tips for making friends during orientation?
Sasha: Honestly, whatever you've been doing to make friends up until now will probably work. Some people make their best friends on the first day of orientation and that's awesome, some (like myself) don't find those people until later down the line and that's great, too. Just go to events and talk to people who seem cool and try to remember their names and explore new places on campus with them! My roommate turned out to be one of the most important friends and support people I met during orientation (though it's OK if you and your roommate don't have this kind of relationship!) but I ended up making the majority of my friends through classes, co-ops, and clubs during the semester.
Emma: Smile. Bake cookies.
Ian: Talk to lots of different people, ask lots of questions, and be honest about your interests. Keep an open mind. Orientation is overwhelming, and often you take shelter in the group of people with whom you've found some basic common ground. There's nothing wrong with that; it helps navigate the stress of orientation, but my advice is to step outside of that group every once in a while, and talk to new people. Also, keep in mind that the friends you have in orientation are very likely to change as the dust settles over the semester, and be open to that. Don't feel bad for drifting away from people, and don't get too worried if you notice people drifting away from you.
Grace: Eat a meal with someone new! Everyone's gotta eat.
Leah: Don't do what I did! Don't sit in your room all week, unless you're hanging out with all the cool, new people you've met on campus. Talk to people, push through your social anxiety, and don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Meeting new people and starting to build a community and support system for yourself will help you to feel like you belong at Oberlin in the long run.
Sami: I made few of my lasting friends during orientation, so don't worry too much about it. You'll have weeks and months and years to make friends.
Brendan: Remember that no one has any friends. I found it a lot easy to reach out to new people (maybe more easy than it should have been-- I was pretty over-the-top sometimes) when I realized that they were probably really desperate for friends. Also, remember that you can stop being friends with people and that your orientation friendships aren't lifelong obligations. Most of them will probably end, so don't be too torn up about that. It's not necessarily a reflection on you, since it will happen to most people.
Frances: It's ok to find a group of people who you go everywhere with during orientation, and it's ok to not remain close to them afterwards, because there are a lot of other people out there who you will meet for years (YEARS!) to come.
What was your favorite event you attended during orientation?
Sasha: I would say that it's a tie. It's kind of cheesy one, but I really remember enjoying the OC (a play put on by RAs to teach freshmen the basics of Oberlin specifically and college in general). It brought up things that are super important to be thinking about as early as orientation including safe spaces, consent, and respecting people's pronouns. The other thing I really liked was this awesome open mic at A-house. It was really cool to see people who I go to school with showcase dope slam poems, songs, and other talents. It's also where I first heard one of my future roommates sing!
Emma: Auditioning for comedy troupes!
Ian: To be honest I don't remember many of the orientation events that well. The main events are fun to go to, but what I remember most is the time between those events, where I was able to interact with people in more unstructured ways. My closest friends today came from those in between moments. Go to the events, they're fun, but also take advantage of the down time.
Grace: My favorite event was the hypnotist, but a close second was the a cappella concert.
Leah: Like I said before, I didn't attend many events during orientation, but the best one that my roommate and I did attend was the orientation swing dance. It was a fun and low-stress way to try something new and meet new people, something that I should have done more than just that once during that week.
Sami: I did a library tour/scavenger hunt that was helpful for learning my way around Mudd (although I still get lost in there sometimes).
Brendan: I went to a board game night that ended up becoming a trip to the Observatory (on the roof of Peters-- definitely a place to see during your time at Oberlin), and then a bowling trip. If I'm not mistaken, that's how I met Frances! It was a lot of fun to try a few different things, and since I went with a big group of people, it wasn't too scary of an experience.
Frances: I went to a freaky hypnotism show in Finney, which was bewildering at the time, but I made a good friend there.
So there you have it! We hope that orientation (and your Oberlin experience as a whole) goes as well as it can! Good luck and have fun!