The prospect of attending college has a somewhat magical quality to it. For a freshman commuter, the anticipation has as much to do with a fear of not making any friends as it does not getting involved in the tight-knit community that a small university like the University of Mary Washington promises.
However, upon receiving the schedule for orientation week in my official UMW email inbox, a large part of that fear dissipated. The week promised to be packed with exciting events, informational sessions and fun opportunities to meet new people.
I also happened to know a few commuters, so I knew that I would have someone to lean on when I felt lonely. It turns out that I was never alone. Throughout the entire week there was never a dull moment, not even when the entire congregation of rising freshmen received what might be commonly referred to as “the sex talk” from Linda Hancock, the Director of Health Promotion at VCU.
Our orientation leaders tried to be more like friends than tour guides, making everyone feel like we were there to hang out rather than receive the guided tour of the campus’ historical locations.
New faces were seen at every turn and there was no shame in walking up to random students and introducing yourself.
Haley Sadler, another freshman commuter student, commented that, “For the first time, I was excited to start school.”
While most people agreed that orientation week was a great balance between fun and informational lectures, there are a few notes to be taken on the account of meeting other freshmen. The biggest problem I found from a commuter’s perspective was that, whenever I introduced myself to someone new, I had to remind myself that I would probably not bump into them again.
I could not invite them back to my place for pizza and a movie because I had no classes with them. The interactions were friendly, but brief. I wasn’t attached to the people I already knew, which I applaud UMW staff and orientation leaders for instigating, but, as a commuter, I knew I would be less likely to encounter these people on campus or become best friends with them.
When I look at the issue from a new angle, I realize that a lot of the meet and greets had to do with establishing an atmosphere. This way, when I walked into class at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, fresh from my first day of commuting, I was able to introduce myself to the people sitting next to me and get numbers for study groups or just exchanging homework assignments over the weekend.
There can also be a word said in terms of organization. I often found myself being herded into a hall with no sense of what I was about to hear. I think that introductions to each event should have been clearer. There were a few speeches that went on for a good 20 minutes before I caught on to what the staff member was supposed to be communicating. This is not to say that any of the staff were not good communicators. I was actually very impressed with the display of rhetoric skill and diversity from my future professors.
Taking the entire week into account, I can’t say I was very disappointed in anything. While there is always room for improvement, the variety of events and manner in which new students were introduced to campus life could not be labeled anything other than successful.