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What It Takes to Be an FSE Leader

Many of us remember our Freshman Service Experience (FSE) or Discover D.C. adventures fondly, trekking around the city we now call home to perform community service activities or explore new neighborhoods. And of course, we remember our FSE leaders fondly. They were the upperclassmen who herded us around for three days, making sure we got the most out of the hot days of Welcome Week. With applications to be FSE leaders this summer for the class of 2019 coming up in a few weeks, Her Campus American got the scoop on what to expect as an FSE leader, from two former leaders themselves, Hayat Abu-Ghazaleh and Blaise Fairfax.

Her Campus American University: What welcome week program were you a leader for?

Hayat Abu-Ghazaleh: I was a Discovery D.C. Leader

Blaise Fairfax: Freshman Service Experience

HCAU: What did you do with your group and did you have any say in that or were you assigned to a location/activity?

HA: On the first day, my group and I went to Anacostia. We went to the Frederick Douglass House, then on a heritage trail. On the second day, we went to Dupont Circle. We went to the Korean Cultural center, then discovered more of Dupont. I was assigned to both my locations. We did get to vote a few weeks before for our preference.

BF: The first day our group took time to get to know each other by playing ice breaker games and then working together to do a picture scavenger hunt around campus and Tenleytown. In the following two days, our group went on two site visits to food kitchen organizations in D.C. The first day was to Food & Friends in Fort Totten where we worked alongside other volunteers to package grocery bags of food for recipients with life-challenging illnesses. The second day we went over to Glover Park to Campus Kitchen where we worked alongside the organization’s hired chef in the kitchen to cook meals for a homeless shelter in Friendship Heights. We did not have any choice in where we were assigned but we had significant autonomy on how we wanted to facilitate discussion with our group and what to do to engage them outside of the formal volunteer hours.

HCAU: What was your favorite part about being a discover D.C. leader?

HA: My favorite part was being able to show the new students around D.C. I loved being a mentor to them and showing them some of my favorite spots. BF: My favorite part about being an FSE leader were the conversations I had with some of freshman in my group. For me, when I did FSE as a freshman, the biggest benefit that I got was the ability to ask older students questions about how things were at AU and just know I’m getting an honest answer. I found that when freshman felt they were comfortable enough with me to ask questions I really enjoyed talking with them and having real conversations about my impressions of AU. Essentially, making a connection with only a few days of knowing another person and sincerely believing i was helping them in their transition to college was what I found most rewarding.

HCAU: Was there any preparation/training involved for the FSE/Discover D.C. leaders?

HA: We had a day of training in which we went over different scenarios that could have happened while wading a group of new students around DC. BF: FSE has a full day of training for all group leaders to give us background on issues and the organizations and help prepare us for working with different personalities in groups. It was incredibly beneficial in preparing me for the next couple days.

HCAU: Did you learn anything from your experience?

HA: I had never been to Anacostia, and was frankly a little afraid of taking students around a place where I had zero familiarity. But I learned to just go with the flow and put my game face on.

BF:  The experience was definitely one I look back on when I think of working with a new group and attempting to facilitate discussion. It was certainly challenging to bring the positive attitude and substance to a group of freshman that may not want to be there in the beginning and create a memorable experience for them. Beyond that, i learned about two great organizations in D.C. and the important work they do on a daily basis to help those less fortunate.


Check out the application to  be a 2015 FSE leader here!


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