By Emma Downes
When it comes to new experiences, first impressions really do mean everything. Whether it is an unfamiliar place, acquaintance or opportunity, how you are introduced makes or breaks your attitude towards that newness. Character U took on the formidable challenge of welcoming a huge number of nervous freshmen to the next most important stage of their life: introducing them to the campus and to each other.
As an incoming freshman, I think the 2018 staff did a great job giving us the best first impression of DeSales they possibly could. What really stood out to me was the relentless energy and passion the mentors put into everything that went on over the course of the three days. They were obviously happy to be there and wanted our experiences to be as enjoyable and helpful as possible. They definitely established themselves as people I can go to if I have any questions about DeSales in the future.
The activities we participated in were many in number and varied between large-group and small-group with the occasional partner activities. Some favorites among my fellow freshmen were the field games, where the Pods worked together to compete in different challenges against each other, and the interactive “concert” hosted by Dave Binder. Both of these were great in achieving a major goal of the Orientation staff, which was breaking us out of our comfort zones.
The Pod system was a fun way to have us compete against each other and make new friends in the process. From my observations, many of the freshmen saw the system as childish at first, but it slowly grew on them over time and they ended up appreciating the experience. I might be biased, though, because my Pod won in the end (Pod 3, victory!).
My favorite activities were the speeches given by different people, especially by the Keynote speaker, Bobbi Petrocelli. His story and his message of self-love and self-worth were moving, inspirational and exactly what a new class would need to hear to kick off this new chapter of our lives. It also helped that these speeches gave us a mental break from the informational and active events of the day.
Speaking of mental breaks, this brings me to what I think was the less-than-perfect part of orientation. Each day was so jam-packed with activities that it was hard to find time to unpack, talk to our roommates or people on our floor or explore the campus for ourselves to make sure we were familiar with our surroundings before classes started. While icebreakers, team-building exercises and informational sessions are important, I think giving the students a little breathing room would have been just as beneficial. My tiredness affected my enjoyment of the activities for sure, and I know the same was true for my fellow freshmen, who complained a lot to me over the three days. When asked, multiple freshmen told me that the lack of breaks between activities was their least favorite part of Orientation.
Overall, I personally feel that Orientation was a positive experience that helped the freshmen to meet new people, get acquainted with the campus staff and get used to the feeling of breaking out of their comfort zones. The general feeling is that for next year, more space between activities would relax the new students and increase their willingness to participate and have fun. If the mentors always bring the same energy and enthusiasm that they did this year, every DeSales orientation is sure to be a success.