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How Being A Freshman Orientation Leader Saved My College Experience

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

Instead of enjoying my last week of summer by the poolside reading People magazine, I moved onto campus early. I wore a bright orange shirt, stood in the St. Louis heat and yelled and chanted for hours on end. I was a freshman orientation leader.

I am of the class of 2024, so I was a freshman in 2020 and had no fall welcome. I had a really tough time meeting people, figuring out how campus worked and difficulty feeling like I belonged on campus my freshman year. So when my sophomore year came around, I signed up to be a freshman orientation leader, hoping that I would meet new people and have the experiences that I’d missed out on. However, I still had trouble connecting with people and didn’t feel like I had gotten a proper fall welcome experience. I even considered transferring schools my sophomore year. Despite not enjoying orientation last year, I decided to give it one more try this year. 

This year’s fall orientation ended up being one of the most fun weeks I’ve had at college. I felt the comradery and school spirit that I had always wanted. For one of the first times, I really felt like I was a part of my school’s community. 

If you are in the class of 2024 or 2025 and have had a hard time connecting with people at your college or feeling like a part of the school community, becoming a freshman orientation leader may be a helpful experience for you. Here is what I got out of being an orientation leader this fall.

Meeting new people

Freshman orientation is an extravert’s dream. I spent anywhere from 7-15 hours a day surrounded by other people. And while that did get tiring by the end of the week, I met so many other upperclassmen, staff members and freshmen. People involved with freshman orientation are the most kind, excited and passionate people you’ll meet on campus. I became best friends with DPS Officers after directing traffic with them on move-in day. I bonded with other orientation leaders over everything from long training days to answering funny questions from freshmen. I’m still friends with some of them, and if nothing else, I know more people who I can just wave to on campus or sit next to in class. 

Getting involved

Being a freshman orientation leader helped me get involved on my campus in ways I never would have otherwise. Part of my job was to go to events with freshmen, such as soccer games and themed spirit nights. During these events I felt unified with the student body. Not just because I was literally in the middle of a giant group of students, but because everyone was happy to be there. I felt pride in my school, and even just in my group of freshmen, who all dressed up as Adam Sandler for spirit night. I also was required to attend events like the activities fair, which helped me find more groups on campus that I’m interested in joining.  Working with freshmen required me to do more on campus and learn more about campus, which has ended up being a benefit for myself as well as the freshmen. 

The freshman experience

Even though I am getting a “typical” college experience this year, let’s be honest, almost everyone is going to be jaded about the things they had to miss because of the pandemic. Missing a typical freshman year is one of those things for me. During orientation this year, I got to enjoy the experiences I missed out on, like the silent disco, soccer games and the late night breakfast. Except this time, I wasn’t an anxious freshman. I wasn’t worried about meeting people or fitting in the way I had been my freshman year. I got to just enjoy it, and I appreciated the experience much more than I ever would have as a freshman.

Seeing college through the eyes of a freshman

One thing I didn’t expect from being an orientation leader was gaining a new appreciation for my school. After being here for two years, a lot of the excitement has worn off. But through the freshmen and their families, I got to see my university for the first time again. On move-in day, I spoke with families about the campus and heard how thrilled they were for their students. Throughout welcome week, I watched freshmen learn about our school for the first time. While I’ve grown used to walking around campus, they still found it beautiful. I know campus traditions and the story behind our mascot, but they still had so much to learn. Through my freshmen, I was reminded how fun college really is and went into my junior year with a new excitement. 

Helping students have a better time than I did

Not only did I never experience fall welcome during my freshman year, my orientation leader also never got in contact with me. I never had someone to ask all of my questions to and felt really lost for the first few months of college. Because of that, I wanted to be a leader that freshmen could go to if they needed help. I wanted to introduce resources to them that I hadn’t even learned about until training for orientation, give them study tips I wished I’d known, help them meet other people on their floor and if nothing else, find their classes. It was rewarding to see freshmen get more comfortable and confident on campus throughout the week. It healed my inner freshman.

Starting college in the pandemic had taken away my freshman experience, but also tainted the rest of my college experience. I never took part in school traditions, went door-to-door introducing myself or even had a typical move in day. Since I never got a proper introduction to college, I never felt really connected to my school community. By giving a new class of freshmen the experience I always wished I had, I saw that the college I’d toured and fallen in love with pre-COVID was still there. And I felt like I belonged there.

If you’re also in class of 2024 or 2025 and feel like college hasn’t met your expectations, being a freshman orientation leader may be just the thing you need. Step outside of your comfort zone, put all of your energy into your school community for a week and hopefully you’ll get something back. Take a chance and heal your inner freshman.

Meredith is a senior at SLU and is excited to write for HerCampus! She enjoys reading, writing, cooking and watching reality tv and dreams about moving to the London to work a for non-profit organization.