Breaking the stereotype: Through the eyes of an Orientation leader

By on August 29, 2013

As much as we try to deny it, most clubs and organizations have some sort of stigma or stereotype working against any hard work that is put in or the excellent service they provide.

Subtract the polos, the whistles and the horns, and orientation leaders are students. Yet despite being neighbors and friends, orientation leaders still get classified as obnoxious, over-involved kids.

Katie O'Brien

Essentially, we are told to “do less,” but we probably never will.

Our goal is to make the new class of students feel as comfortable as possible by the time they start their first day of classes. We are the first people the incoming class meets at Quinnipiac, so we often make or break their impression of students here. We represent the whole, and we do it as best as we can. We come from different clubs, coasts, teams and interests, so between the 84 of us, we can answer almost any question related to campus life.

What people don’t see is that orientation is not just another organization joined solely to add meat to the club sandwich that is the résumé. It serves as a chance to make a difference, however small, by easing the nerves of new students. If we all felt that orientation leaders were useless and annoying, none of us would be where we are now.

Coming to college is terrifying no matter who you are. Most of the leaders in lime green found solace in those who came before them. They found someone who filled the role of an older sibling, like I found in my OLs. They found a friend who would be the best cure for homesickness or a ride to the train station. They found someone who made them excited for school, not scared or nervous.

When I returned from my orientation experience three summers ago, I couldn’t wait to get to Quinnipiac. I lit up whenever I talked about it, and all of my friends from home couldn’t wait to go to their respective orientations either after hearing my blab for weeks about it. But when my best friend returned from hers, horrified that they gave her a map of Boston and no guidance or comfort, she decided not to return in the fall.

That’s when I realized Quinnipiac’s orientation program was different, and that’s when I knew I needed to help new students in any way I could.

Above anything else, orientation leaders are passionate, and yes, that often comes off as crazy. Despite what others may think, there is a reason for our nonsensical actions and often painful to watch dance moves.

The pressure to make new friends can be so heavy that new students forget to be themselves in order to fit in with a new crowd. If they see upperclassmen openly screaming “bunny, bunny!” accompanied by ridiculous hand gestures or performing a synchronized ribbon dance that would make Lizzie McGuire look foolish, we are reminding them the value of being who they are.

Orientation is, with certainty, an overwhelming time for incoming freshmen and transfer students. Yet when, by the end of the experience, a student in your group tells you they cannot wait for the fall to start or they never expected to feel so comfortable in two days, we know that our empathy towards students and willingness to embarrass ourselves has paid off.

So, yes, orientation leaders are our stereotype, but we’re proud of it.

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