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?)

Responses to this Entry

I couldn't agree more. Especially about the exclamation! Points!

Posted by: Kat on August 18, 2009 11:00 PM

I am jealous that you are an ambassador- I would love so much to be one, and hopefully I will be next year.

I agree with all your advice. Even not having roommates that worked out for me my first year, I think meeting and talking with them helped a lot. I still have massive props for Theo even though I never see him.

I would almost want to add one thing for new students: call your parents, even if it's just once a week. It's amazing how much a phone call can cheer up a parent's day, even if it's just to pass the time on your way to a dining hall. It was one of the best tips anyone told me when I first got to campus, and by keeping them in the loop, it also helped keep my parents from breathing down my neck- especially when I didn't need to share every detail of my stress level with them!

Posted by: Sean on August 18, 2009 11:26 PM

I got the reference, but then again I'm not OC '13, so I probably don't count.

Anyway, to any incoming freshmen reading this blog: please please please don't be shy in meeting upperclassmen! We love you! We were you! We want you to become like us so that later you'll see incoming freshmen and want them to be like you so that later they'll see incoming freshmen and want them to be like them and together we'll form an infinite loop of awesome Obies!

Okay, so maybe I'm just a little too excited but I still have 10 days before my return to campus, so you'll have to forgive me for now.

-Chris Gentes, OC '10

Posted by: Chris on August 18, 2009 11:44 PM

"Just take every word they tell you about school and surround them with quotation marks that are shaped like the words "thank you." Seriously."

Ma'ayan FTW. Holy shit that is: a) an amazing message and b) some seriously affecting word-crafting. I think I need to go call my parents and thank them right now.

And for the class of 2013: Go to Chance Creek and wander around the surrounding woods. And swim before (or after) it's too cold. Good luck.

Posted by: Lillie on August 19, 2009 1:04 AM

Well said, and I definitely appreciate the reference. I'd just add on the advice to get out of your room during orientation. It may be comforting to IM with people from home, but orientation is the best possible chance to get out there and meet new people!

Posted by: Jonas on August 19, 2009 1:13 AM

Ma'ayan, this is awesome. (And the title isn't that obscure – maybe your brother didn't watch enough TV as a kid ;) I'm so excited to get back and see all the first-years discovering Oberlin...

To the first-years: Oberlin at the beginning of the school year is gorgeous. Run around, explore the campus and the town, and generally enjoy being outside ... because around October it will start to rain, and around November it will start to snow, and then you will never see the sun again.

It will feel a lot like summer camp at first. You'll be hot and sweaty. You'll be surrounded constantly by a huge crowd of folks your age. There will be bonfires, scavenger hunts, dance parties, granola-making, jam sessions, and all manner of ridiculous adventure. Enjoy every minute, and don't forget to document it, however you do that: take pictures, make a playlist, Tweet sarcastically. You'll be surprised how fast you forget your first impressions of Oberlin.

Don't forget that you are at school, and that someone somewhere is paying an awful lot of money for you to go to that 9 AM class and tote that heavy textbook to the library. Get on top of it now, while it's easy... and learn how to manage your time and study effectively now, before your workload becomes overwhelming.

Finally: sometime around November of my first year, while I was prowling around the stacks in Mudd and wishing for a steaming cup of tea, I realized that during Orientation I'd made a horrible mistake. Skip the library tour at your peril! Yes, you do need to know how to find research materials... and you want the sweet mugs they give out at the end :)

Posted by: Eli on August 19, 2009 1:31 AM

More unsolicited advice for new freshmen:

You're going to be entirely comfortable hanging around your dorm with your new friends, but try to make a point of exploring the town, at least a little bit. It's a really beautiful place filled with beautiful people.

Posted by: Tevi on August 19, 2009 2:09 AM

The pet goldfish of my youth was named Thomas Thomas Thomas (Tom T. Thomas for short) — can you guess after whom? The theme song is still my cell phone ringtone.

Posted by: Noah on August 19, 2009 2:12 AM

A good and wise post. Take it from one who has completed three years and knows the school inside out. You'd do well meeting this little pint-size dynamo named Ma'ayan. She knows her stuff and easily shares it.

Posted by: Abba on August 19, 2009 2:27 AM

I bet George Carlin would have made an AWESOME academic ambassador.

That said, I'm quite psyched to be on campus during orientation as well. Freshmen (er, "first years"? I'm so conflicted q_q), I don't think you quite understand how excited we all are to meet you.

Posted by: Greg on August 19, 2009 3:39 AM

Reading everyone's advice gave me more tips to remember.

Go to the convocation talks. To this day I have always had them occur at bad times, and I blew off the ones I could've gone to my first year. After finally getting to go to one, I feel like I missed so much.

When you register, take a class you normally would never take.As a freshman, you have the time- you won't really have all that much time to do it again as you progress in your major. If you're a musician, take something completely unrelated to music. If you're not, take advantage of the music at Oberlin. That one always goes without saying. Back when I wasn't double degree, I took Econ 101 on a whim, and I've never regretted that decision.

Posted by: Sean on August 19, 2009 10:00 AM

Oh hey, you completely said the last one. I thought you had, but I didn't scan the entry that well again.

...well take a crazy new class anyway. It really can't be stressed enough.

Posted by: Sean on August 19, 2009 10:01 AM

Excellent advice Ma'ayan and co. Here's my two cents.

Never be afraid to try anything. Or try everything! When I worked for admissions people on tours would always ask, "you mean, it's open to freshmen too?" in regards to club sports, co-ops, clubs, auditioning for theater and dance productions, music ensembles, program houses, advanced level classes, eating in any dining hall (seriously?), joining an a capella group, being in the circus, the art rental, and any number of other things. And the answer is YES! Of course! I don't know what's up with some other schools, but Oberlin people don't distinguish between first years and upper-classmen for pretty much anything. Freshman are a huge and vital part of the community, and a valued part as well.

So get out there and do EVERYTHING that sounds interesting. Take a weird class, take an ExCo, learn to fence, learn to contact juggle, join a co-op, go protest something. Never hold back.

And seriously, check out the art rental :)

Posted by: Shawn on August 19, 2009 10:52 AM

Seriously first-years, don't be afraid of us older folks. We (or at least, many of us) enjoy talking to the new people on campus- whether you're a first-year, prospie, or a fellow co-oper's parent.

When you're thinking about classes, don't forget about the excos either! I've met some of my best friends through an exco that I took my first semester, so don't miss out on the opportunity. Also, go to open houses during orientation! Various departments, groups, and resource centers host open houses towards the end of orientation, and it's a great way to meet people without any pressure of whole group conversation, free food, and (potentially) some like-minded individuals.

Finally, talk to your professors and advisor(s)! You probably won't get to know all of them, and you may not like or get along with some of them, but don't be afraid of them. Go to their office hours! It will help you understand what they're looking for in assignments, and you'll see them in a non-classroom setting. Go meet them for coffee, invite them to professor beers (even if it's just for root beer), say hi when you see them in decafe or walking through campus. They're nice people and are at Oberlin because they enjoy teaching. They may seem scary, and intimidating, and full of amazingly brilliant ideas- but don't be shy

Seriously, have fun during orientation. Do crazy things. Just don't forget classes have to start eventually. :)


Posted by: Rusty on August 19, 2009 11:15 AM

Hey Ma'ayan. Glad you'll be back early... now? Stop in at the COM office and see us. can't believe school is starting already.

Posted by: Megan on August 20, 2009 3:29 PM

When I worked for admissions people on tours would always ask, "you mean, it's open to freshmen too?" in regards to club sports, co-ops, clubs, auditioning for theater and dance productions, music ensembles, program houses, advanced level classes, eating in any dining hall (seriously?), joining an a capella group, being in the circus, the art rental, and any number of other things.

Posted by: Buzz on July 4, 2010 9:06 AM

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