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An Introvert's Guide to Orientation

August 19, 2015

Emma Davey ’18

Have you ever taken a Myers-Briggs personality test? Did it scare you how accurate it was about you (INTJ represent!)? Was that just me? One of the most useful things I learned about the test was that introverted or extroverted aren't synonyms for shy or outgoing. Those traits can often blend together, but introverted/extroverted actually just refers to where you best channel your energy. An introvert channels their energy inward, to themselves, and prefers their own inner world, while an extrovert channels their energy by being around people.

I'm not gonna lie to you - orientation is scary. It's scary for everyone, but if you're an introvert, it can be extra intimidating. But let me repeat what I just said - it's scary for everyone. Do you see those kids who looked calm, cool, and collected? It's a lie. It's all a front. Maybe not completely, maybe they're feeling mostly secure. But no one goes through orientation without being at least the tiniest bit scared.

Move-in day was kind of crazy. I got to Oberlin early in the day, so I could make sure that I got my preferred side of the room (not to mention I'm someone who likes to be early/on time for things). My roommate came later in the day, and although we had talked on Facebook before and became friends quickly, neither of us are particularly chatty when you first get to know us, so we passed the time unpacking mostly in silence. She accompanied my family to dinner, where I was in a bad mood with so much sensory overload. My family and close friends can tell you - when I've been around people too long, I get really cranky until I can have some me-time. This was a case of being around too many people for too long. Unfortunately, that's kind of how college operates as a whole - not just orientation. You're constantly surrounded by people. Even when you're alone in your room, you can often still hear people around you. For me, that's the hardest part about college. In high school, I drove to school, stayed there for eight or so hours, and then drove home. It wasn't fun, but when those eight or so hours were done, they were done. Yes, there's homework, but that's exactly what it is - to be completed at home. There's a separation. There's a distance. If I had a rough day at school, I got to be at home to deal with it. I had my family there to support me. I had my room there to offer me sanctuary. I could physically remove myself from the situation. That's not the case at college. You live where you go to school. There's no separation. There's no distance. If you've had a problem with a friend, then too bad, because they live down the hall. Your loved ones are just a phone call away, but you're miles apart from a big hug. It gets easier after a while, but there were plenty of times where I wished Apparition was real (Harry Potter nerds get me, the rest of you - just google it).

That first night there were hall activities, where we met all the RAs and people in our hall and did icebreaker stuff. I found that these activities were helpful when we were in small groups with just our section of the dorm, and there were far fewer people to remember. Most of the people you meet in the dorm, you meet over time, so don't feel bad if you feel like you didn't get to know anyone at this point.

My lowest point of orientation was right after my parents left. They came up for the second day to eat breakfast, go to a panel, and say goodbye. While sitting in Finney (side note - FINNEY IS SO HOT Y'ALL. BRING WATER AND A FAN IF YOU HAVE IT) waiting for the panel to start, I leaned over and asked my mom when they were leaving, to which she replied "Right after this is over." I'm sure all the faculty who were there gave some great advice about adjusting to college life, but I wasn't really paying attention, seeing as I was crying through the whole damn thing. Am I a baby? Definitely not in terms of age, but certainly with how easy it is to make me cry. Like, it took until spring break for me to not seriously cry upon departing Houston at the airport, and even then, I teared up a little. If (for some strange reason) any of the good people of the TSA of George Bush Intercontinental Airport are reading this, thanks for being weirdly nice about it. Before college, the longest time I had spent away from my parents was two weeks. As excited as I was to start college, saying goodbye to my parents for the first time might have been one of the worst things I have yet to do. I'm terrible at goodbyes because of the whole crybaby thing. They said goodbye to me in a parking lot. I felt like throwing up, and as they drove away, I shouted for them to stop because I knew my mom had a bottle of water with her. She kindly gave it to me, and then they drove off. I immediately went back to my room and cried for a bit, then cried some more because I could hear people hanging out, and I had yet to make any friends. Another tip - orientation friends aren't forever. I thought that everyone had their friend groups figured out by the second day, and I would make no friends, and neither of those things was true. I would suggest a healthy amount of wallowing after saying goodbye, if you're like me. It's fine to sit and cry for a bit. If Inside Out taught us anything, it's that our feelings are valid and we should acknowledge them. Sometimes it feels nice to feel sad. But after a bit, it's time to buck up. Shake it off. Put on a fun playlist. Dance around. Find an event to go to. If there's nothing, find a common area of your dorm and hang out there. Take a walk. Venture into town.

I made a personal goal for myself to talk to people. That sounds pretty basic, but to be honest, talking with strangers can be intimidating for me. Pro-tip: if you want to start a conversation with someone, pay them a compliment. Even if you don't actually have an opinion on the jacket they're wearing, it's a great way to get things going because a) who doesn't like a good compliment? and b) you can easily segue into introductions and then other conversation. I once complimented a girl on her outfit and she invited me to sit with her at lunch. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Someone once said that 99% of success is just showing up. I think it might have been Woody Allen, but I am very wary about giving him credit for anything in this day and age. While I can't quite say that's true for academic success, it seems to work about making friends. Most of the friends I made happened because both of us were at the same place at the same time. Other friends I made because other people were friends with them first. Honestly, there's no real formula to making friends, but the 'showing up and then paying them a compliment' method seemed to work out for me. The nice thing about Oberlin is that people are pretty friendly. Not to mention Obies tend to have the same values so you're generally guaranteed to already have things in common with the people you're talking to.

A note about homesickness - it will happen. My advice is distraction, especially with something funny. Especially with friends. Laughing with friends will easily take your mind off of missing your life back home.

"But Emma, what if I don't have friends yet?"

Netflix is everyone's friend. Just don't overdo it.

As this is my last entry before starting school, I guess I should impart any random bits of advice I have left.

1) Don't wear anything that's gonna be too hot at the 'Sco. Even when it's the dead of winter and you're like 'maybe I should wear a sweater?' The answer is always no. Also, go early to get your wristband for splitchers. You don't have to stay, but at least you'll be guaranteed to get in when you do finally show up.
2) If you're getting a sandwich or wrap at Decafe, keep an eye on it if you want it toasted. This is an unspoken rule, but you are responsible for pointing out which item is yours and telling people when you want it off the grill.
4) If you're from a warm state like I am, and this is your first real winter: hats are your friend! Other people won't find snow as cool as you do! And watching the snow fall while you're inside with a cup of tea listening to the Twin Peaks soundtrack is pretty much the most peaceful you'll be in your life. Or maybe that's just me.
5) If you don't have an iron, a hair straightener works pretty well as a substitute. I learned this, not to mention where the hottest clubs in Los Angeles were circa 2006, from The Hills.

I guess this about wraps it up. Just remember that orientation is kind of crazy, but YOU CAN DO IT! I believe in you, and Shia LaBeouf certainly believes in you too.

I included this video to prove that I am hip with the Internet memes of today.

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