It’s orientation time at many colleges, so I thought this would be a good time to talk about my orientation experience and maybe give some advice. I hated orientation, you see. Like… it’s just a weird couple of days, isn’t it?
You’re away from home and you know very few people and you don’t know the area very well, so you’re perpetually confused and probably a little anxious too. (And sick of icebreakers. OH THE ENDLESS ICEBREAKERS.) You just want school to start already and move on with the rest of your college life.
So this is a post about how to survive orientation if you, like me, are an introvert or just really hate icebreakers. At first I was like, “Maybe I WAS the only one who disliked orientation,” but then I talked to a few of my friends and they said it was stressful too, so… yeah.
This isn’t meant to be a poor reflection on either the staff or the activities of my university’s orientation program – I’m just easily overwhelmed (and exhausted) by large, enthusiastic groups of people. And since orientation primarily consists of large, enthusiastic groups of people, I wanted to run away most of the time.
Anyway, here’s my advice.
First of all, all those icebreakers aren’t very likely to help you make friends. I’M NOT SAYING THAT YOU’LL REMAIN FRIENDLESS FOREVER, THOUGH. Absolutely not. But chances are that you’re not going to meet your new best friend because you sat across from them in the circle and smiled at them when they told everyone their name and their favorite color.
I talked to a bunch of people in my orientation group because I was lonely, and I haven’t talked to most of those people since. In a few months you will perfect the art of nodding awkwardly at people you interacted with that first week of school only. It’s OK.
There were literally only two people from my orientation group who I continued to talk to as the year went on: One doesn’t count because she was my roommate so we would’ve seen each other every single day no matter what, and the other was a guy from the LGBTQ+ group on campus.
The icebreakers are there to help you open up to people and feel less overwhelmed. Orientation tends to smush together a bunch of people who may or may not have similar interests/passions, which is why you end up awkwardly nodding at people you sort-of-kind-of know all throughout the year. The vast majority of my friends were from my classes, my Living-Learning Community, extracurriculars I signed up for, et cetera. The first few days at college I was so sure that I would never make any friends, but I just had to be patient.
On a completely different note, don’t befriend anyone who already has a large amount of drugs and/or alcohol on them before orientation is even over. Like, it’s a fact of life that people will party in college but it really isn’t worth it to get in trouble for underage drinking and/or possession of drugs and alcohol DURING THE FIRST WEEK. At least leave the res halls to do it. I lived right next to the party dorm last year and some people’s parents were called that very first week because their child did something stupid.
My next piece of advice is twofold: Don’t feel that you have to participate in everything, but don’t lock yourself in your room and refuse to socialize 24/7 either. Orientation week is packed full of fun things to do but if you’re super introverted like me, the thought of spending ALL DAY EVERY DAY surrounded by tons of other people is, well… not fun.
As the week drew on, I found myself spending more and more time back at my dorm room, either reading or just sitting quietly and
stressing out thinking. And that’s OK! You don’t have to do everything, especially if it’s optional. Take a nap. Go for a walk. Check out a building on campus that wasn’t on the tour.
But at the same time, please please PLEASE don’t avoid everyone. This ties in neatly with my fifth and final piece of advice: Enjoy this time as much as you can, because pretty soon school will be in high gear and you’ll wish that you had as much fun and free time as you did during orientation. You get a bunch of free shirts, and the the food in the dining hall is at its best, and best of all there are no papers to write. What’s not to love?
I see things differently now, though, which is why this post was so much fun to write. I honestly wanted to go home at this time last year because I was feeling so lonely and worried. I was miserable and beginning to second-guess my decision to come here because I am a small bundle of anxiety at the best of times, and orientation was a stressful experience for me.
But those feelings passed soon enough for me, and they will for you too, if you’re feeling that way right now. Once school kicks off you’ll be too busy to think about anything else, and you won’t have to participate in endless “teambuilding” activities, and it’ll be wonderful. Trust me.