Everything You Need to Know About Feeling Welcome on Your College Campus

As a Bruin Recruiter on campus, I am fortunate to meet prospective students as they are powering through the sometimes arduous process of choosing a university. I watch as they sit with their parents and discover Belmont with fresh eyes, listening to faculty sell our organization as a place with countless connections and hearts that are devoted to giving students an education that will last longer than their four years spent in Nashville, if they do in fact choose to attend.

Of all the stories I’ve heard from those who commit to Belmont, though, the deciding factor has always been this: the sense of community. “It just felt like home the moment I stepped onto campus,” they say. “After seeing the student body and how kind and welcoming they were, nowhere else could compare”.

What does it mean to feel welcome?

I found this question turning over in my mind many times this past week as I drove back to Tennessee. I spent the summer mostly at home with my parents, and took up a job at a dog kennel not too far from our house. Most of my conversations were shared with four-legged friends, and while I am thankful for that, it also made me nervous to be flooded with humans as I walked into my first day of training to be a Towering Traditions leader at Belmont.

Towering Traditions, lovingly abbreviated TT, is a group of students on campus that are chosen after an extensive interviewing process to orient and welcome the class of 2020 as they enter their first week as Bruins. They are led by a wonderful Orientation Council that works for months to create the best programs and activities possible to keep the new ‘stoods’ interested and excited about an otherwise emotional and sometimes confusing transition from high school. Each TT leader is gifted 10 students that they will call their family at the end of a week in which they have been assigned their own family of TT leaders, each carefully chosen and led by an OC leader.

Training week is an intense and full-speed-ahead introduction to loving and caring for strangers. I had heard that it was transformational, yet I still found myself underestimating how much power comes from a group of individuals with a common passion to serve others. We all shared our stories with one another, dug deep within the most vulnerable parts of ourselves so we could properly accept the stories of the incoming freshman and greet them with understanding, with a sense of belonging.

We then participated in two days of moving in these long-awaited students, from six o’clock in the morning to around 6 o’clock in the evening. Screaming and chanting and dancing and smiling the whole way, our near two hundred TT leaders carried the burdens and possessions of every family up endless flights of stairs. Move-in day is usually a stressful event for families, and taking away the manual labor makes it much easier to bear. Around campus, I would hear things from parents, such as “I have never seen anything like this before”. I also was asked multiple times if we were being paid to do all of it—the answer was a proud “no” every time. I say proud, because no one in TT expects to get anything in return for the service they give out. To pour and be poured into is a privilege. We just genuinely want everyone to have the best transition possible, and we feel honored to be a part of that process.

The light at the end of the tunnel of tubs and boxes was the moment all of the freshly-trained leaders got to meet our own TT families. We had been taught how to connect with strangers, and now we were being put to the test. As guides, we spent a few days with our students, taking them to informative events carefully planned by the OC to prepare them for what was to come in the following years at Belmont, and to welcome them to the community the school sells itself on.

Again, what does it mean to feel welcome?

I know what it feels like now.

It is being comfortable with sharing yourself unapologetically, with conviction and intention. It is allowing yourself to be quiet and listening to others, not simply listening to respond. It is learning how to not preconceive others as a certain way, and to welcome their stories and take them as their present form as you would want others to accept your own.

It feels a whole lot like every aspect of Towering Traditions.

I have never felt more welcome at Belmont than I have the past week. I’ve fallen back in love with my university, and with the individuals that make it so special. Many colleges have programs similar to TT, but I would be surprised if any accomplished the level of comradery Belmont does. It holds true to the promises made at preview days, and goes above and beyond, thanks to the students who love it enough to keep the tradition going.

Welcome back to Belmont, HerCampus readers. Let’s grow this year, and serve each other in our own little ways.

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