On Orientation: Occasionally Overwhelming
The morning I moved to Kenyon as a first-year student, I remember feeling butterflies in my stomach as I woke up in the hotel room my parents and I were sharing. Ridiculously enough, I was most concerned by what I saw when I looked into the bathroom mirror: the August humidity had turned my hair into an unmanageable frizz puff, and I was frantically searching the suitcases for my hair straightener. After doing my best to make my hair somewhat presentable, I ate two bites of a hotel waffle and insisted we leave for Gambier in exactly five minutes, because I didn’t want to be too early for move-in day, but I still wanted to be, you know, early.
Once we’d secured my room keys and information packet, I started scanning the Orientation schedule for the next few days. (Let’s pretend I hadn’t already memorized the online calendar the week before … I was anxious, okay?) There were so many things going on — I didn’t know how it would be possible to do it all. On the first day, I met my community advisor, upperclass counselor (UCC), roommate, and a few people in my hall, but the majority of the day was spent with my parents. We set up my side of the room, ran to Walmart to pick up last-minute items, and witnessed my dad break a light bulb as he tried to screw it into my new floor lamp. By the end of the day, I was ready for a good night of sleep in my new home when I learned that the “small hall gathering” listed on my schedule was actually a get-to-know-you party for all the first-years in both Mather and McBride.
Here’s the thing about Orientation: You may find yourself overwhelmed at times (especially if you’re an introvert or if strangers in general make your palms a little sweaty). Don’t panic — this is totally normal. That first night, when I was in a room with what seemed like hundreds of other first-years, our only task was to get to know each other. A handful of us from my hall immediately formed a circle and started talking, but the more adventurous among us soon decided the best course of action in this situation was to walk up to strangers and start introducing themselves. Eventually, I found myself wandering around alone, trying not to look like the loser with no friends on the first night. I could feel my face getting warmer and the room getting louder, and finally, I slipped outside for some fresh air.
As I watched a few people walk away from the building, I wondered to myself if they were allowed to leave. Suddenly, I realized that this was college — there was nobody forcing me to stay. If I decided I’d had enough and was ready to go back to my room and relax, I could. (And I did.)
I can’t say that was the only time I felt overwhelmed during my first week. There were other moments when I was nervous or exhausted or anxious or awkward, but there were also a lot of wonderful experiences. Convocation was lovely. Going to my advisor’s house for tea with the other people in my UCC group made me so excited to choose my classes. I remember spending an afternoon eating ice cream outside in a hammock with two girls I was getting to know and excitedly texting my mom, “I made friends!!”
The people I spent the most time with during Orientation did not, for the most part, become my best friends at Kenyon. Regardless, it was so nice to have some familiar faces to sit with at lunch and at all of those meetings and presentations (again, nobody’s going to force you to go to those, but you probably should).
Probably the best tip I can give you regarding Orientation is to recognize when you feel yourself getting overwhelmed. Recognize it, and remember that if you need to take a breather, you should. There are tons of activities to keep you busy, but if you want to skip the comedy show to bond with your roommate or spend some time exploring campus alone, go for it. Someone told me before Orientation that the key is to be patient, and this really stuck with me, because it’s true. Know that in a few days, you’ll be navigating the Peirce servery like a pro. In a few weeks, you’ll be able to direct lost prospective students to the classes they’re sitting in on. And in a few months, you’ll have found the friends you really click with and the organizations you’re passionate about.
Also know that you will receive an incredibly warm welcome — students, faculty, and community members are truly excited to meet you, so don’t be afraid to ask them for help when you need it. You are about to become part of an incredibly special community — enjoy it, and welcome to Kenyon!