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.

Orientation

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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