Orientation: Let's Do it Again!
by Marilyn Wolbert | published Aug. 23rd, 2019
Every August, thousands of students — nervous, excited and awestruck — flow onto RIT’s campus. They leave behind high school woes, crying parents and the blissful feeling of being debt free. What better way is there to welcome a bunch of terrified and confused young adults to the most socially-taxing time of their lives than to immediately throw them into a week of constant socialization?
That’s right. Nothing.
Every August, students are welcomed wholeheartedly onto RIT’s campus by a group of upbeat, well-trained orientation leaders. Their primary goal? To help with the adjustment for each and every student that steps onto campus that week. The objective of New Student Orientation (NSO) is to provide a series of events, activities and opportunities to welcome new students and give them the information they need to succeed in their college years.
As these are, for many, the most challenging days of their college careers, having the opportunity to socialize and create friendships through activities and communities on campus is needed in order to develop long-lasting relationships from the start.
I've served as an orientation leader for the past two years and spoken to multiple new students that I worked with. They all said the same thing: orientation made them come out of their shells and take risks, things they never would have done before without that community of people.
Stone Colvin, a second year Mechanical Engineering student, spoke about his experience as a new student and how orientation affected him.
"I went into it expecting to hate it — I don't like meeting new people," Colvin said. "But I ended up having a really good time and learning a lot."
Icebreakers and Life-Savers
There is a method behind the ice-breaking madness. These ‘games’ do exactly that — they break the ice between the students involved. How? By taking each of them out of their comfort zones, allowing them to communicate and fostering connections between them; even if that connection is over how much they hate ice breakers!
However, orientation leaders are trained for more than this. In fact, they go through a week of constant information sessions focused on all topics that concern new students and families, such as housing and dining, diversity, Deaf culture and Title IX. Those who work for NSO are equipped to handle almost any situation or question that may come their way — and, if they can't, they know who can.
Students are also given presentations on serious topics that may require debriefing afterward. NSO staff are always available to get through these tough issues with students and prepare them to effectively handle any situation that may arise during their time at RIT.
The program is not built solely for first years, but also for international, transfer and graduate students. RIT does a great job in providing activities and learning opportunities during orientation week for all of these groups.
Orientation brings incoming students into a new stage of life. The program gives them the help, guidance and confidence they need to survive the ups and downs of their college experience.