In the three (!) years since I started school at Oberlin in fall 2015, my orientation has become a blur in my memory. I often think I remember hanging out with some of my best friends, living it up and being super social. But that isn’t quite how it happened… During orientation, I hadn’t even met most of my current close friends! I did have fun going to concerts, eating meals with new people, and exploring campus, but I was also very overwhelmed. I think that’s why it’s such a blur in my mind. I was missing my family really badly, I was getting lost all the time, AND the heat was making me sweat 24/7. In the first three days, I lost my room key and dropped my phone in the toilet! All of this is to say that orientation isn’t good or bad. It’s up one moment, like dancing with that cool girl from your hall at the ‘Sco, eating Poptarts that your parents never let you keep in the house, and finding people obsessed with your favorite weird band. And then it might be down the next – dropping your phone in the toilet because your mind is in a million places. But orientation is just a blip in your college experience, so enjoy it and let it be what it is!
A few tips to remember throughout orientation:
Keep an open mind!
This applies to many, many things - your dorm, your new friends, your class schedule, and more. Keep yourself open to possibilities for change and new experiences! For example, you might not click with your roommate right away, but find a common experience to bond over later in the semester. Or you might not be super excited about one of your classes, but later in the semester realize that it's leading you in an exciting new academic direction! You really never know how things will turn out, so don't worry too much. You have four whole years at Oberlin, and this is just the first week!
Your PAL will help you!
The Peer Advising Leaders (PAL) program is one of my favorite things at Oberlin. Maybe I'm biased because I'm a PAL, but it truly is wonderful. Now in its second year, PAL places every new student with a peer mentor. New students are grouped by their first-year seminars, so there's a built-in community right away! PALs work with new students throughout orientation and during the semester in a 1-credit course, LEAD 050 or "Introduction to Oberlin Life and Learning." We even have a Twitter! Your PAL will be there for you through every up and down of orientation and first semester, so don't forget to call your PAL if you're having a hard time!
Thank on-campus workers and tip service workers in town!
A lot of students forget to tip their servers - let's not continue that! It's so important to show Oberlin staff and town employees that students are thankful for the work they're doing.
Be brave, but be easy with yourself!
Go out of your comfort zone! One thing I did a lot during orientation is sit down with random people in the dining halls and strike up conversations. I also chatted with people next to me at orientation events. Some of those people are still my friends now! Orientation is the perfect time to take risks and be bold and brave. But also know that it can be intense, and give yourself time to adjust! You might need to call home every night - I did (and often still do). That's okay! Homesickness affects more people than you'd expect, so don't be afraid to talk about it with your new friends. Being vulnerable is a great way to get closer to people.
I hope those tidbits help. If you see me around campus, feel free to say hi or ask me for directions or debate me on whether Mitski or Ariana Grande has a better new album! Something about orientation always makes me emotional. It’s a little bit magical to see 800-something first-years all beginning their Oberlin journey together. Remember, you are so ready for everything that comes your way. See you soon!
Here are a few of my favorite blog posts about orientation: