Orientation Week

I am lost, scared, and I have no friends here. I don’t know anything about this new place. It’s my first time moving away from home. What if I fail? What if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t make any friends? Have I made the right decision?

All those thoughts and questions ran through my mind as I left my house and moved to a university residence. I was about to start my first year in undergraduate studies without any of my high school friends. They all went to different universities so our paths diverged. It wasn’t my first time going solo, as I went to a different secondary school from my elementary and junior high school classmates, but at least I was in the same city and neighborhood. Now it was a new playing field in the game of life, and I had no idea what to expect.

Well, what I certainly didn’t expect was a week full of silliness and games. I thought university would be a lot more serious, but it wasn’t. It was an orientation week full of scavenger hunts, whipped cream fights, choreographed dances, and more. Icebreakers and introductions all arranged by upper year students helped bridge the transition for first years from their old life into the new upcoming chapter. It was easy to see that during orientation week some other new students were full of anxiety as well, but that also dissipated as the week went on. The games and events certainly helped break me out of my nervous little shell as the only focus was having a lot of fun and making new friends. So what I did was energetically introduce myself to everyone who came my way regardless of the situation or location. I made a lot of friends, some that lasted only that week and others that I still keep in touch and hang out with to this day, a little over four years later. Orientation week certainly helped me get a sense of the university community while the whole school is running around and dancing without a care in the world.

Believe it or not, I made it across the wipe-out balls.

In orientation week, we were arranged into our school faculties and each faculty had different events planned. I was in the Environment faculty and met a lot of my to-be classmates through orientation. Some events were school-wide, which was an opportunity to meet all sorts of first year students. This is one way in which I made a lot of friends in other faculties like Science. My anxieties didn’t last very long though as everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful to everyone else. It was very easy to walk by any students and be able to connect through faculty dances or from simply being thrown into a new place together. I wish that week didn’t end, or at least I wish every week was as big of a celebration as orientation week. I’m certain it helped shape my university career into a successful one.

I believe the way to be happy is to be grateful, whether it is for opportunities, for your health, for anything good in life. I was truly grateful for an excellent orientation week, one that helped submerge my fears and anxieties, so I decided that I needed to volunteer as leader in my second year of university. I wanted to be someone that could help first years and I wanted to run and dance around again without the stress of academics looming over me. I didn’t know how much I loved dancing until orientation week! Though, I’m still terrible at it…

I applied and after a couple of interviews I was selected to be a leader for my faculty! Environment! B-A-N-A-N-A-S! I was excited, I was nervous, I was happy, along with a bunch of other emotions mixed in. Excited to help plan and run events, nervous because what if I couldn’t be the leader the first years deserved, and happy because it was a fun week that I’d get to relive. The spirit of the university would come to life again in September and I’d be a part of it! And so the training sessions began months ahead in anticipation for one week.

Finally, after getting my orientation leader swag and a couple of meetings with my team, it began! Helping with move-ins, teaching dancing, running around, setting up games, playing the games, making more friends, providing hope and support to first years, and passing down my wisdom. It was a hectic week with little to no sleep. Certainly busier than I was in first year, with a lot more responsibilities too, but a lot more fun as well. Even with the leaders, there was a hierarchy among us. The top leaders (FOC) would always be there to help and support the other leaders as well as provide instruction if we were ever lost. To be honest, what I admired the most during the week was the massive amount of upper year students volunteering their time for so many new students, to make them feel welcome,  to provide the support and the friendship they’ll need, and to show them that others have made it through university, you can too.

Aerial photos taken from our school’s drone, via twitter.

Two years passed where I was unable to be a leader due to the fact I wasn’t in university during the Fall semester. During the long semesters that were full of stress, school work, interviews, and exams I would miss the exuberant nature of orientation week. So, in my final year of undergraduate studies I became an orientation leader once again. Except this time it wasn’t for my faculty, it was for the student union (FEDS) of the school.

The difference between volunteering for a faculty and for the FEDS was that the faculty leaders only helped run faculty-wide events and had a group of first years to lead. The FEDS leaders didn’t have a group of first years to support and guide, but rather helped run the school-wide events. Being a FEDS leader was much more busy than a faculty leaders, with some days that went from 8:30 in the morning until 2:00 in the early hours of the morning. However, our FEDS team was so awesome, so much fun to hang around, and incredibly supportive that even the long shifts didn’t matter. I enjoyed being a part such a wonderful group of students, I was proud to be a FEDS leader. And as a FEDS leader, I had time to run around collecting stickers from different faculties. For each sticker you had to go out of your way to help the faculty in question and I was able to collect all of the stickers, even the ones that were not just for the specific faculties. It definitely made my orientation week special and complete.

Look at me and my awesome sticker collection. Ignore the terrible cropping please and thanks. 🙂

And now, all of my orientation weeks are over. All of them hold a special place in my heart and are full of warm memories that I like to revisit. I’m grateful for all the friends I’ve made along the way to my final year of undergraduate studies. All of the people I’ve met in university have helped shaped who I am now, and that is someone who I am proud to be. However, as graduation approaches, I am revisited by the same questions that once haunted me at the start of university.

What if I fail? What if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t make any friends? Have I made the right decision?

I like to have meticulous plans about my life, and of course they don’t ever turn out exactly they way I’d have liked (sometimes for worse, sometimes for better). Of course, after graduation there won’t be as much support as there was during orientation week at my university too. So what will happen? Am I ready? I guess I tend to worry a lot.

Only time will tell, but as of now, I have a lot of interests and options that I could possibly explore. I would just like thank orientation week again though, because without it I doubt I would have come this far in university. I was able to develop meaningful goals, learn so many useful skills, travel, explore a variety of interests, and work incredibly hard. It just seems unbelievable. I’m about to step into another world, start another chapter, and I am travelling towards to the unknown without stopping. I have come a long way from the scared little person entering university to the two-time leader and final year student that I am now. Graduation appeared to be so far away when I started, almost an entire lifetime away, but now these past years have just flown by. Thank you!


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