College orientation can be intimidating, as immediately you are surrounded by thousands of students chanting pep rally anthems, wearing the same college apparel, and asking the same thousands of questions about what you hope to do within your time at the university. From the moment you get there, you’re bussed to different activities, expected to participate in various activities, and socialize to hopefully make a few friends from the experience.
My freshman orientation was one of the best moments of my life. Yet, it was also one of the most overwhelming. Although I love trying new activities and meeting different people, it can be draining to follow a rigid schedule where you’re expected to maintain the same level of energy and enthusiasm during the eight-hour days in the blistering heat of Riverside summers. Although it can be a nerve-wracking experience, by prioritizing your own needs, this can be an experience you remember forever.
If you’re like me, and may be having a bit of fear as you say goodbye to your parents for the weekend, have no fear. Check out these tips to make it the best experience possible!
Make sure you pack everything you need for orientation. Nothing is more stressful than realizing you forgot your toothbrush or left your charger at home. This is especially nerve-wracking if you’re going to college outside of the state or country you currently live in. Immediately, your brain reacts with a “fight or flight” mode, forcing you to think of ways to creatively adapt to the missing item. Save yourself the stress by making yourself a checklist (typically, colleges will send a recommended packing list either through email or on their website). As you pack, check off each item to make sure you have it safe to go in your bag!
Don’t be afraid to step outside, if needed. Orientations can often be an overload of information, which becomes overwhelming and draining. What’s more, it’s not uncommon for personal and triggering issues to be brought up in the space, such as sexual assault prevention. If you’re feeling your energy drop or stressed to the core, step outside for a few moments to be recollected before heading back in. Listen to your favorite song(s). Recite positive affirmations to yourself. Call someone you care about. Do what you have to do to feel fully present again in the orientation space, and if your orientation leader questions it, don’t feel embarrassed by saying you needed to step outside for yourself.
You don’t have to meet the entire incoming class of 2021. There will be plenty of networking opportunities during orientation, and chances for you to meet your new peers. However, you should not feel obligated to meet and shake the hands of hundreds of people. Make strong connections with the number of people you feel comfortable with – whether it is five or 55. Throughout the school year, you’ll have more opportunities to meet your peers, so don’t feel pressured to overextend yourself in an effort to become well-known on campus.
Remember that your school admitted YOU. During orientation, you’ll meet all kinds of people in a diverse array of passions, experience and backgrounds. It can be easy to look over their shoulder and be jealous of their perceived success, thus making you want to alter your personality to make yourself more “likeable.” During my orientation, I was consumed with wanting to seem funny enough, while dressing professionally and proving (to myself, mostly) that I was smart enough to remain in the institution.
At the end of the day, the university you’re attending admitted you because they believed in your spark and passion that you exemplified in the application. You weren’t admitted because of your ability to imitate what’s already been done before, but rather renovate the wheel and progress the university forward with your talents and skills. Take your inner energy that shined brightly in your application, and carry it throughout college. So often, we invest our energies into sculpting imitations of what we find to be wonderful without recognizing that our very existence is an act of resistance and our personalities cannot be replicated. There will always be someone who cannot see your worth – don’t let that person be you.
Although you may not always know what to expect during college orientation, it is the entrance to your next four years of college. Have fun, prepare well, and remember your own needs for self-care during the weekend, and be prepared for the journey of a lifetime!