The W&M First Year Experience

Coming Home: An Insider’s Scoop on Orientation

August 16, 2017 by W&M FYE · No Comments

Hello blog-readers! My name is Erin Hegarty and I am a rising senior here at the College of William and Mary, from Long Island, New York, majoring in American Studies.  One of the best things that I have found during my time here is a passion for community, so I have shaped much of my time outside of the classroom in a way that fosters my own personal community and builds up the larger William and Mary community.  I have gotten involved with one of our club soccer teams, so that I get to play a sport that I am passionate about with some of the coolest women on campus who also love soccer.  I also volunteer through the Office of Community Engagement with a group called Lafayette Kids, through which I get to spend time building and experiencing community by helping out in the greater Williamsburg area.  Working with the Admission Office, I have gotten to spend this summer talking about what an awesome place William and Mary is and, hopefully, help some prospective students realize that William and Mary could be their home too.


But by and large, the most meaningful involvement that I have had during my past three years at William and Mary has been working with our Orientation program through the Office of First Year experience.  As an Orientation Aide (OA), I have gotten to witness community building in action, getting to be one of the first to welcome new students onto our campus, having the chance to hear their awesome perspectives and stories, and watching them find their place within our student body.  Most recently, I have gotten to change hats a bit and work as one of the ten Orientation Area Directors (OADs), helping to plan the program for this coming August.  (I will be the OAD for Transfers, Exchange students, St. Andrews Joint Degree students, and non-traditional students—so if you fall into my section of campus, I am extra excited to get to meet you!) The main job of our team was to hire the 222 OAs that will be descending on campus in just a few short weeks, donning the neon, and helping our new students navigate the first few days of life at the College.  Hands down, the coolest part of this job has been seeing just how passionate people on this campus are about welcoming new students into our midst and how much the people around me value the community that I also care so much about.  I cannot WAIT to see all of the hard work our team has put into crafting our staffs come to fruition when OA training starts on August 22.

I got involved with FYE because of how important it was to me to find a community that accepted me when I was coming into college.  I had a great Orientation experience, with OAs who took the time to serve as mentors for me well after those five sweaty days in August ended.  I have found my niche here, found people who have embraced me for all of my quirks, found my “opposite of loneliness,” and I wanted to work towards making sure everyone could have this same welcoming experience.  So much of who I am today has been shaped by the lessons I learned during Orientation, both as a new student and as an OA, and from the incredible student leaders who have surrounded me and supported me along the way, and I feel very, very grateful for that.

“…you are already a valued member of this community, just as you are”

For those new students who will be coming onto campus on August 25, there are a few things that you should know:

–       First and foremost, we are so, so, so EXCITED for you to get here!

–       Second, you are already a valued member of this community, just as you are.  There’s no earning your stripes here.  “Those who come here, belong here.” Whatever path you took to get here, you are here now.  You were accepted into William and Mary because of who you are and what you bring and we need you specifically in our community to make it as wonderful as it can be.

–       Orientation can be a whirlwind—take it all in and embrace the experience, but know that you can do this at your own comfort level.  There is no one set timeline for adjusting to life at William and Mary, and the OAs (and RAs and PAs and everyone else on campus during Orientation) are here to help you find your way!

–       Along these lines, set your own pace!  If your thrive zone is getting out there, cheering and yelling and jumping all around, go get ‘em—we’ve got people ready to be super hype with you! If that’s not where you thrive and you’d prefer a more relaxed conversation with your OA, discussing your latest Netflix find, there are people down for that too– as well as everything in between!

–       Know that FYE is here as a resource LONG after Orientation ends—your OAs may become friendly faces that you see on campus, mentors that you look up to, or some of your closest friends—but no matter what, they will always be a resource for you.  The office itself puts out programing throughout your whole first year, so definitely take time to check that out as well!  Never hesitate to reach out, because the people in FYE are some of the most helpful, kind, and friendly people I have ever met.

You are about to embark on one fantastic journey, my friends.  Hang tight and take it all in, because it for sure flies.  Here’s to the adventure that awaits you!  Welcome home.

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Tips & Tricks for YOUR First Year at William & Mary

August 11, 2017 by W&M FYE · No Comments

Hey there! My name is Kathy Hopkins and I’m a rising senior here at William & Mary. I work in the Office of First Year Experience as one of the ten Orientation Area Directors, so I am SUPER excited to welcome all of our new students to campus in August, especially now that Orientation is less than 1 month away! Today I’ll share a little bit about my first year experience and hopefully get you excited about YOUR first year here!
On a lovely August morning three years ago, I moved into (arguably) the best freshman hall: Monroe! While I had never lived in a building with 150 strangers before, after sitting in class and grabbing meals together, they became some of my closest friends on campus. Even to this day we enjoy hanging out at Busch Gardens and winning intramural championships together!
Meeting new people extends beyond the residence hall as well! Since my faith has always been really important to me, I immediately got involved with Catholic Campus Ministry and took a trip to Virginia Beach where I enjoyed a delicious Dairy Queen Blizzard and met several upperclassmen who offered lots of guidance and support as I decided which other clubs I should join and which major I wanted to pursue.
Speaking of majors…I knew I wanted to study neuroscience before I came to William & Mary since I wanted the opportunity to explore undergraduate research and clinical volunteer work. Luckily enough, I was able to pursue BOTH of these things my freshman year! I studied the applications of reading microexpressions in the context of political psychology then became certified in reading microexpressions myself. I also started volunteering at Lackey Clinic at the end of my first year where I scribe for different medical providers as they treat the uninsured patients of the Greater Williamsburg area. Both my research and scribing at Lackey have been such great learning experiences and have prepared me to apply to medical school this year!
I’ll wrap up with a few quick tips for your first year at William & Mary:
1. Get to know the people around you!
Our fellow students here are some of the most amazing people in the world and your college experience will be multiplied if you take the chance to learn from your peers. Ask people what classes they’re taking and which clubs they want to check out at the activities fair! W&M students aren’t just passionate about our classes and extracurriculars, we’re passionate about each other.
2. Make time to relax.
Go for a stroll in Colonial Williamsburg or read a book on the dock by Lake Matoaka. The first few weeks of the semester can be busy, but make time to rejuvenate so you can be the best version of yourself during your time here!
3. Be bold.
College is a time for exploration. Take a class in a subject you’ve never heard of. Grab a meal with someone, even if you’ve just met them! Your college experience will be unique to your interests, so feel free to explore your passions and learn something new each day while you’re here!
I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer! Get excited to become a part of our Tribe as we’re very excited to welcome you to your new home here at William & Mary!!!
With love & excitement,
Kathy Hopkins

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Finding Your “Why”

August 3, 2017 by W&M FYE · 1 Comment

Hi everyone! My name is Madison Ochs, and I’m a rising senior at the College from Lawrenceville, New Jersey. In the classroom, I am a self-designed major in Human Mechanisms of Metacognition, which is a technical way to say I designed a major that allows me to study how people learn and think about thinking. I’ve always been interested in this field of study and I love how I can apply what I learn to anything else I do, be it another kind of class or an internship. Outside of the classroom, I volunteer in The Haven, am a sister of Kappa Kappa Gamma, and work for the Office of First Year Experience as an Orientation Area Director! All of these activities are so important to me because they allow me to spend tons of time with people who share interests with me while focusing on accomplishing a common goal, whether it is making a personal difference with the people who visit The Haven, planning a philanthropy event with my sisters for the entire campus, or organizing and preparing an Orientation program that reflects the passions and priorities of FYE!

Hearing me talk about how much I love this school and how I have spent my time leaves some people surprised to hear that I haven’t actually gone to William & Mary for four full years, and that I actually transferred to the College halfway through my sophomore year. My first year at William & Mary was when most other people were halfway through their time here, and that was intimidating at first, of course. It was also an amazing way to make sure I took nothing for granted and put intention behind all of the decisions I made. When I was signing up for classes, I thought about why I wanted to take certain courses and made sure to leave room for random bits of exploration in subjects I had never touched, like my class in Organizational Behavior. The course sounded interesting, I had never taken a business class before, and now I’m pursuing a minor in Organizational Leadership & Management and loving my time in the business school! I never would have found my current minor and some spectacular classes and professors if I hadn’t taken a chance on a random class just for the heck of it.

“…my most meaningful involvements out of the classroom, or some of my favorite experiences that I can look back on and say, ‘I’m glad I tried, but I don’t need to do it again.'”

Sometimes, I encountered things that weren’t a great fit or that I didn’t like as much as I thought I would, I felt as though I had to stick it out or else I was quitting. If I had followed that guideline, I would not have ended up with my current major, my most meaningful involvements out of the classroom, or some of my favorite experiences that I can look back on and say, “I’m glad I tried, but I don’t need to do it again.” Many people go through high school or their early years of college feeling as though they have to rack up certain classes and intense leadership positions in several clubs within a certain set of parameters or subjects to be attractive to colleges or future employers. While there is some wisdom to cultivating a well-rounded, enriching experience, those résumé items don’t mean a thing if they don’t speak to you. Why bother spending so much time chasing something that you couldn’t care less about?

I work with Orientation because I had such a spectacular experience when I transferred, I met one of my role models during my Orientation, I think those first days are incredibly formative, and I love getting involved with cultivating and crafting our school’s community to leave it even better than it was when I arrived. As another example, one of my best friends organized the William & Mary Global Innovation Challenge to help other students cultivate interests in international development, help her hone her own skills, challenge herself as a leader and participate in a project that would last past her own graduation. There are tons of these kinds of stories, about any kind of involvement or class or decision made during college.

“The best advice I can think of to pass on to incoming students, no matter what age or interest or identity, is to cultivate your ‘why.'”

It’s hard to swim against the stream, and it’s even harder to feel like you aren’t sure of your final destination when doing so. I guarantee you’ll have a few moments where you aren’t sure what to choose. How to choose, though, is simple. In the Office of First Year Experience, we like to talk about your “why”, a mystical and magical concept that encompasses a person’s personal, inner motivations for doing something. The best advice I can think of to pass on to incoming students, no matter what age or interest or identity, is to cultivate your “why.” William & Mary provides its students with countless opportunities to do truly extraordinary things, but it is up to you to choose what to do. Sometimes your “why” is very personal and profound, like the reason I work in The Haven (my personal experiences with issues of gender discrimination and a passion for sexual assault prevention and education), but sometimes it is lighthearted and goofy, like the reason I want to try out for the Syndicate dance team (it looks fun, it’s a last chance to try something new, and I really love the music they dance to). It takes time, and not every choice will end up being the perfect fit, but that is okay! If you focus on feeding your passions and following that “why”, you will have the most fulfilling college experience imaginable.

I can’t wait to meet you during Orientation, and if you have any questions feel free to reach out to me or anyone in FYE! Enjoy the rest of your summer, and Go Tribe!

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New Worries About Your New Adventure

July 26, 2017 by W&M FYE · No Comments

New Worries About Your New Adventure

Guess who you can’t get rid of?! It’s Ally with another blog post. Working here at the Office of First Year Experience, we get lots of calls from students who are worried about all kinds of things. And that is completely normal. College is a really big change than what most people are used to. So I decided I wanted to write a little about those worries.

All the Pre-Work

The summer before coming to W&M is crazy. There are a lot of things to submit to the College so you are all set to start here. There are also the important education programs (college studies, alcoholedu, and the haven program) that you should be paying attention to because they are helpful. Basically, you just need to stay organized. Keep checking your W&M email in case someone contacts you about an issue or just to get the reminders of due dates. At this point you have made it through practically everything.

Sharing a Room with a Stranger

If you’ve never shared a room with another person, living in a dorm can be a bit of a shock. Whether you selected a person from Facebook or got a random assignment, you have to inhabit the same space as them. The best advice I have to give it just to be kind and honest. When you are making your roommate agreement, be upfront about what your pet peeves are. Still, you should be willing to compromise on things here and there.

Student Intimidation

William and Mary is a great school. It’s probably one of the main reasons you’ve decided to come with. That also means that students here are extremely smart, talented, and passionate. At first, that can be intimidating. But once you are here on campus and start befriending and working with your extraordinary peers, your insecurity will fade because you will start to root for your peers to succeed. I think the College is at its best when we all work hard and encourage each other to be the best we can be instead of trying to compete with each other.

What About My Future?

I just want to get right to the point with this one. You are allowed to change your mind when it comes to your future! You are allowed to have no idea whatsoever about what you want to do! It’s all about taking the baby steps and seeing what you are passionate about. Little by little as you find your meaningful involvement here on campus, you will start to make a path for yourself.

We Are Here to Support You

These are all valid worries. But what I think is important to remember is that the College is here to support and help you. Everyone here wants you to have a good year. Worried about the deadlines of the Tribe Guide? Call the Office of First Year Experience. Having conflict or apprehension about your roommate? Talk to your RA on your hall. Feeling intimidated or overwhelmed? Make an appointment at the Counseling Center. Unsure of what steps to take next for your future? Head over to the Cohen Career Center. There are plenty of other resources here like Student Accessibility Services, the Haven, Care Support Services, etc. that are standing by and ready to help you in any way they can.

I promise that as you settle into life here on this beautiful campus, you will start to wonder what you were so nervous about.


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Take Your Time

July 21, 2017 by W&M FYE · No Comments

Hello internet,

It’s Ally Brimmer again. I thought I would take the time today to tell you a little more information about myself and my first year experience at William and Mary.

I’m currently about to start my junior year at the College as a sociology major and a marketing minor. I work at FYE as the Director of Engagement Initiatives, I am in Passing Notes A Cappella, involved with Sinfonicron, am Vice President of music fraternity Delta Omicron, and an Orientation Aide for the Fall. I think my main story is that it took me a while to find my place here.

Before I started school I had a lot of high expectations for myself. As a type A personality, when something doesn’t go according to my plan, I get a little thrown off. I had this image in my head of what my college life was going to look like. Long story short, it did not end up looking like that “image” at all. Still, I don’t think I would change a thing, as corny as it may sound, because it has gotten me to where I am now.

During orientation, I felt overwhelmed by the student activities fair. I did not really put my name down on club listservs, but did audition for a few groups on campus. However, a double-edge sword of W&M is that students here are all really really talented. And I’m not going to lie, rejection can be hard, but I just kept moving forward and looked for the next opportunity. In fact, I did not get accepted as an OA freshmen year, but that didn’t stop me from applying again.

My main involvement first semester was in the theater department. I worked backstage for two shows in the fall. In high school I performed on stage, so I loved getting to work behind the scenes and learn new skills. While I no longer have the time to help out with the theater department, I’m still there in the audiences cheering everyone on.

My theater friends told me about this thing called “Sinfonicron” that happens over winter break. Sinfonicron is a student-run light opera company that has been at W&M for 50+ years. During the last two weeks of Winter Break, a handful of students came back to campus, bunked up in houses and put on a production in two weeks. Two weeks to make the sets, teach the choreography, learn their lines, and make the props. Choosing to do Sinfonicron was the best decision I’ve made here. I met incredible people, formed lasting bonds, and felt incredibly proud of my abilities.

Sinfonicron then led me to join the co-ed music fraternity Delta Omicron. I was starting to find my footing. I think Freshmen year is all about being open to new experiences. My friends and I went to all the concerts, all the comedy shows, and all the random events around campus to see what we enjoyed and how we wanted to spend our free time. Through these events and just simply hanging out in rooms, my friendships with my hallmates got deeper. My friends really made my freshmen year so incredible and I’m currently looking back at my Facebook photo album and can’t stop smiling.

Early on when I had random free time, I went to various information sessions from the Cohen Career Center and the Reves Center. This led me to studying abroad at Cambridge University the summer after my freshmen year. I link that into my first year experience because I still felt like I had a lot to learn about myself and what I wanted to do that at William & Mary. Studying abroad is an unforgettable experience that helped me in so many ways and I highly recommend it to everyone.

Even after freshmen year I still jumped around and tried different organizations, but now I feel secure in where I am. The same also goes for my major and minor. I originally thought I wanted to be a psychology major, quickly realized that was not right, and took an introductory sociology course where I seemed to thrive.

I think if I wanted anyone reading this to have a main takeaway it would be “take your time and find the right fit.” I know from personal experience that when you arrive on campus, you immediately want to find your own niche here. I just think it’s important to not jump at the first thing that comes along and have faith that you will find a place here. Also, find the friends who make you your best self and hold onto them tight.

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