Oberlin Blogs

Shining Time Orientation

August 18, 2009

Ma'ayan Plaut ’10

Guys! I'm going to be in Oberlin in less than a week! I'm moving into my house on Sunday! I'm not going to lie, I'm terrified and excited! I can't stop using exclamation points!

Why am I coming back early? I'm working as an academic ambassador, along with my housemate Sneha and many other amazing juniors and seniors (more on this later). That, and orientation rocks, for many reasons, for freshmen, parents and current students alike.

Why orientation rocks from a non-freshman perspective:

- You move in early.

- You get to meet so many new people.

- You can enjoy Oberlin in those rare, no-homework-and-classes, sunny times that happen only at the beginning and end of the school year. A gradual ease into the school year is the best preparation for the fall semester. There are a few positions on campus that will let you come back early, including working for Campus Dining Services during orientation, being an employee of CIT, a Residential Assistant (RA), or a member of Concert Sound, or helping with OSCA open-up. Some other offices on campus bring back upperclassmen to stud the campus with shining resource beacons for freshmen and parents alike, like academic ambassadors.

The Office of the Dean of Studies has created a program to help ease the stresses of being a new student called the Student Academic Ambassadors Program. This is my second year working with Dean Randal Doane and the Ambassadors program. Basically, we upperclassmen wander around during orientation events, meeting people, answering questions, and assuring parents that their kids are going to be fine away from home (as well as recruiting for various student groups... *cough*TheOberlinReviewOCircus!Piscapo'sArm*cough*) The ambassadors also work closely with students' advisers and help with class registration, and hold question and answer sessions about other academic situations later in the semester.

To you freshman:

Most of my freshman orientation is a complete blur; in retrospect. I was part of a massive OSCA capture-the-flag game, involving lots of planning and running around campus late at night with one of my future roommates. I met some friends from Facebook in real life during a picnic or two, was involved with a traveling flash-mob of a dance party, had a feelings circle with a group of kids I don't even talk to anymore. That said, it was amazing. And you're probably not going to remember most of it.

And now, some tips from someone who has been there before:

- You don't have to remember all the people you meet during orientation, but do meet people. You have four years to meet people but you will never have as much time as you do during your first week on campus.

- Get on decent terms with your roommate. They're going to see you at your best and your worst, and it's better if have a good rapport with them from the beginning. You rarely choose your freshman year roommate, so don't worry if you aren't the best of friends or if you don't live with them again. Conversely, you're "their roommate," too, so be nice and reciprocate. Mom send you cookies? Share!

- Get to know campus with your own two feet. The maps and brochures are a piece of paper, but campus is much bigger and prettier than that. Similar to the meeting people section, you won't have that much time to do this during the semester. Take a walk. Meet people in other dorms, too. There's a 100% chance that there's someone cool there too, and you may find a place (or a person) you want to live in (or with) in the future.

- Don't be afraid to ask questions of upperclassmen! We are not scary! The academic ambassadors, both your assigned ambassador and the rest of the crowd, are a good starting point, but befriend people in your dorms or co-ops and classes. We've been there and will be able to help you through seemingly impossible schedules and homework loads, as well as professor and class recommendations and cool activities around campus.

- Be openminded. Oberlin offers a lot of really unique opportunities, and before your schedule gets insane, you can try out as many things as you want. Never tried juggling? Look into OCircus! (Okay, I'll stop plugging...) Like music? Try out for a choir or an ensemble. Want to learn to fix bikes? The Bike Co-op can teach you that, or you can build your own. Also, you may not even know you're interested in these things. Drop by and check them out, you may surprise yourself. Check out posters everywhere and find something new!

- Hug your parents, as embarrassing as it may be for a newly independent late teen. You'll regret it if you don't. And even if you don't call them every day, send them an email or a photo every once in a while to show them you're alive. That's how I started blogging hardcore: I didn't want to call my parents all the time and wanted to take pictures. It kind of blossomed out of control from there, but they did appreciate the photos. Your parents will miss you, and this is their last chance to see you for a while. Spend a little bit of time with them in your new home.

To all you parents:

- It'll be okay. You've been in their position once, too, even if it wasn't the first day of college. You turned out okay, and so will they.

- To your kids, all they will tell you they need is your strong arms, your car, and your wallet from you during orientation. It's the most tangible way to deal with leaving home without the emotion of missing homecooked meals and pets... it's nothing personal. Think about it as spending time with them before you leave. Don't stress about pre-school purchases, buy things like school supplies locally. Also, you want to buy paper towels and some cleaning supplies. I can't count how many times I spilled tea with milk and sugar on my carpet and was thankful it wasn't going to smell like that for years of residents to come.

- They will stay up late, they will learn more than is taught in their classes, and they will probably forget to thank you for the opportunity you've helped provide them. Just take every word they tell you about school and surround them with quotation marks that are shaped like the words "thank you." Seriously. I haven't thanked my parents enough, and I'm about to start my fourth year, but I plan on thanking them for the rest of my life.

- This is the first time your pride and joy will be able to start their life as an independent person. Give your kids a bit of time to ask questions on their own and to branch out themselves. I offer the same advice I'm offering your kids: meet some parents. You'll have at least one thing in common: you're about to send off your kid for their first year of college. Much more can stem from that commonality. And if you decide to come back for parents' weekend, or even commencement four years from now, you'll know someone too.

- We're going to resist your advice verbally, but it will be stored it for future use. We can learn things on our own, but sometimes it's more difficult. Hard is not bad, and when we complain, we're not necessarily asking for help, but trying to tell you what we're doing by ourselves without bragging.

To all you kids who can't wait to apply for college and have your own orientation:

- Start working on your applications. Fill things out as soon as you get them and we'll hopefully see you next fall. It's never too early!


Someone once noted the differences and similarities of working during orientation and commencement: though on the opposite sides of the age spectrum, there are so many parallels: excitement, bittersweet goodbyes, parents and family, hugs and tears, suitcases. I will have spent three orientations and three commencements in Oberlin by the time I graduate.

Orientation is beautiful, Oberlin during orientation is gorgeous. I'll see you there.

(Okay, does anyone understand my title? My brother, who is applying for college this fall, didn't get it. Is it before your time, class of 2013?)

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