It’s that time of year again! Masses of students and their parents will be rolling giant yellow bins around campus with dorm essentials, cramming everything into their new room, giving lots of hugs goodbye, and cheering for their newfound freedom (finally!) But before everything really begins, there’s FYSOP (First Year Student Outreach Program). It’s a weeklong volunteer experience, but there’s a lot more to it than that. So, here are 8 things you need to know:
When you move in, there might not be many other people on your floor. Looking back on my own FYSOP experience, I honestly have no idea how many people on my floor participated. Yeah, it was that empty. Luckily, my roommate did FYSOP, too. One of my closest friends from my floor did FYSOP but I didn’t even meet her until classes started! Even if it is super quiet on your floor during FYSOP, don’t fret. I promise, your lovely fellow floor mates will arrive in no time!
You will get to volunteer for some amazing causes. No matter what issue area you’ve chosen, you will get to help out some truly deserving causes. By the end of the week, you’ll probably be super enthusiastic about your issue area. I participated in “Gender Focus,” and I was proud to be able to help out women who were seeking shelter from an abusive husband, as well the LGBT community. I don’t think I could have had such great opportunities anywhere else.
FYSOP is not a reflection of what BU will be like when classes actually start. This was one of my biggest misconceptions. While all of my friends from home were getting right into the routine of regular college kids (class, dining hall, meeting their floor mates, going out on the weekend, etc.) I was putting in long days of learning about the FYSOP program, volunteering, and then reflecting on these long days. I sorta flipped out, wondering if BU was really the right place for me. Ladies, don’t make the same mistake as me! Take FYSOP for exactly what it is: a volunteering opportunity that allows you to move in early and start meeting people. Real college will begin soon enough.
You might have some new/awkward experiences. On my first day of volunteering, we had to walk around Cambridge asking strangers to volunteer to help with a “phone-a-thon” to raise awareness about a transgender equal rights bill in Massachusetts. Getting shut down by people over and over again was no fun. On the bright side, it was a great way to bond with the other people in my group. Now I never ignore people who approach me on the street because I learned how tough of a job it is!
You might become a FYSOP enthusiastic, or you might not. The experience turns out to impact everyone differently. You might love FYSOP so much that you’ll want to become a group leader next year. I know I appreciated the enthusiasm and passion for FYSOP my group leaders had. But maybe FYSOP will just be another experience in a year that will be full of many exciting, new, and interesting experiences.
Be prepared for lots (and I means LOTS) of icebreaker games. This is a universal favorite activity among FYSOP group leaders. Everyone has a million takes on the games, including some pretty goofy stuff. And while it’s not really my thing to do weird, silly things in front of people I’ve never met, I learned that I needed to just go with it. Trust me, these games will go so far as basically singing and galloping around in circles arm-in-arm with people you’ve never met. Therefore, you should just have fun with it and remember that in a week’s time you’ll be sitting in class and probably wishing that you could be galloping around with strangers instead of being cooped up in a classroom.
You might stay friends with the people in your group, or you might not. It really depends on the dynamic of the group. When I see one of my fellow group members around campus, we always say hello and maybe chat a little bit. It’s awesome if you end up meeting people that you become really close with over the course of the rest of the school year. But don’t forget that this isn’t your only chance to meet people that will become your friends. The whole freshman class hasn’t even arrived yet! Plus, you can join countless clubs, participate in intramural sports, join a sorority, write for HerCampus (sorry, had to throw in a little self-promotion), etc.
It really is one of the best volunteer experiences around. Rarely do you get the combination of amazing volunteer opportunities, great people, and such strong enthusiasm for important causes. You’ll get to meet people unlike anyone you’ve met before. I’ll never forget Justin, a coordinator at our first volunteer site, MassEquality. Justin was born a female but transitioning to be a male. He devoted all his time to getting that equal rights bill passed. I had never met anyone like him at home, so it was really eye opening for me. So just take everything in and have fun!
Rep Image from http://bubuzzmagazine.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/volunteer/. Text Photo from http://www.bu.edu/csc/news/.