As an Orientation Leader (OL), I was responsible for being among the first points of contact between new students and their university. I underwent an extensive interview process with approximately 180 other students. Out of those 180 students, 30 were hired to join the returning 18 Orientation Leaders (OLs) for the summer of 2013.
During the first three weeks of the summer, we all underwent training covering an expansive list of topics ranging from university policies, departments, and course requirements for majors and academic progroms, to residence halls and other resources available on campus. We also underwent training such as 'Safe Space', which focused on gender identity and expression, diversity training, and other difficult situations that tend to arise during orientation.
During orientations, I generally worked with new students and families for approximately 10 hours per day. While transfer students underwent a half-day orientation (and each day consisted of two back-to-back orientations), freshman students experienced an entire day of orientation. Our duties as OLs began in the morning as we greeted and checked students in, sat them down at their tables, and pointed them toward appropriate lines to turn in health forms and take their student ID card pictures. Each OL then went to their assigned table of students. This table of students would then spend nearly half of their day in close association with their OL. In addition to sitting through all of the presentations, OLs would lead campus tours, eat lunch, and lead ice-breakers with their tables. At 2:00, students left their tables and were divided up by which room they would go to in order to create their Fall 2013 schedules. In one of these 'registration rooms', each OL would then be given another table of 4-6 students to assist with creating schedules.
Throughout the summer, I developed a wide set of skills. Despite sitting through the same presentations several times a week, I had to remain enthusiastic and engaged. However, not every moment could be a cookie-cutter stamp of cheeriness simply because every student brought a different combination of anxieties, questions, and excitement about different aspects of beginning their undergraduate career. It became very important to be able to discern what students truly needed help with and learn how to initiate conversations that would benefit them. Each student is subjected to a deluge of information during their orientation--everything from where to find their adviser to what being in an 'undergraduate college' means to what different Stony Brook Specific acronyms stand for, to simple day-to-day information such as where their residence is and how to print documents on campus. As an OL, it was our primary concern to relay as much vital information as possible as well as providing an environment in which students would be comfortable making connections with their fellow incoming classmates.
Even though each day of orientation was mentally and physically draining, I enjoyed every single hour. It is incredibly rewarding to work with students as they go through the frustrations of creating a schedule and dealing with any anxieties they have about their upcoming years at Stony Brook. Sitting through the same presentations and answering the same questions day after day can not damper the enthusiasm I have for this university or its students.