6 Things I Learned from being an Owl Team Leader

I’ve spent the majority of my summer surrounded by red polos, khakis and people who are always ready to do everything they can to help. And no, I haven’t been working at Target this summer.

Actually, I’ve spent the months of June and July as an orientation leader at Temple University, ~famously~ known at the university as “Owl Team Leaders.” I do admit that our uniforms make us look a bitttt like Target employees, however, the job descriptions are pretty different. 

As Owl Team Leaders, or “OTLs,” we wake up at 5:30 a.m. twice a week to complete two two-day orientations every week. We have to have that same positive and (in many incoming students’ opinions) obnoxious energy from Monday at 5:30 a.m. to Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. And then, of course, again on Thursday and Friday. 

Currently, we are eight orientations deep into the summer, with only four (!!!) more to go. Being more than halfway done with my position, I’ve learned so much about myself, my peers and Temple University that it’s hard to even put into words. But, being a journalism major, of course I’m going to try.

  1. 1. Temple University is like, really cool

    Alright y’all, I’m not trying to make this article into a sponsored Temple advertisement, but I have truly realized how unique of a university Temple is. Temple has so many great amenities, programs and organizations, but I won’t even get into that. What truly makes Temple so great and different is how diverse it is -- and I’m reminded of this every time I look out into the crowd of students at each orientation. I am so proud to go to a university that prioritizes and celebrates differences among the student body, and I am excited for the incoming freshmen to experience this kind of pride in their school as well.

  2. 2. An emotionally-draining job can be just as taxing as a physically-draining job

    When everyone told me this summer would be exhausting, I honestly didn’t think much into their warnings. I knew there would be long days, however, I didn’t really comprehend how it would be considered “draining.” To me, I thought that the only jobs that were truly exhausting where the more physically-demanding jobs that required heavy lifting and manual labor. By the end of the first orientation, I realized that I was very, very wrong. After each orientation session, I feel an overwhelming sense of happiness, but also of exhaustion, where you sort of just feel “burned out.” It’s a weird feeling, because I’m so proud of myself and my students, but I also just want to not talk for awhile and be with my own presence.

  3. 3. However, there are things I can do to help this

    I’ve learned so much about myself and what I need to do to personally take care of myself when I’m feeling a little burned out. Self-care has been a total buzz word in social media today, but I truly think self-care is whatever YOU think it is -- hence the first word “self.” Personally, after a long, two-day orientation session, I force myself to go to an 8 p.m. hot yoga class in the city. It’s exhausting to drag myself all the way into the city, but I always thank myself tremendously once I’m there. There is something extremely therapeutic about not talking for an entire hour, with your only focus being on your breathing (and how much your legs hurt from the chair pose).

  4. 4. Making an impact is very rewarding

    Temple is a huge school, you know, if you consider 40,000 undergrads to be a pretty large sum. Obviously, it’s easy to feel like a small spec on a campus with so many students, so I knew right away that I wanted to do something to make me feel a little more important. Now, I’m not saying I need to be a known face or name on campus, but I do need to know that I’m somehow making a difference at this school, no matter how small that difference is. Every time one of my students express to me how much calmer they feel about going to college now that they’ve gone through orientation, I am reminded why I do this insane job. I remember how nervous I was for college as an incoming freshman, and if I can alleviate just a little bit of those jitters from my students, I feel immensely content.

  5. 5. However, I’m not going to get through to every student -- and that’s OK.

    I learned quickly that not every student is going to walk into orientation with their arms wide open, ready to envision themselves at this new place for the next four years. It is important that I don’t look at these students as my own personal “challenges.” That’s not to say that I won’t try to hype them up and keep their spirits high -- I most definitely will give them my all. But, sometimes students are apprehensive about this new phase in their lives, and they might take this feeling out on orientation by not listening or acting like this whole experience is just stupid. I’ve learned not only to accept this, but to also not feel like I’ve failed these students as a leader.

  6. 6. (Warning: this is cliché) … live in the moment!

    I know, you’re probably cringing right now (and honestly I am too). But this cliché lesson has never been as applicable in my life as it is right now. When I’m groggy and half-asleep at 5:30 a.m. with over 16 hours of work ahead of me, it’s sometimes hard to remember why I thought I could handle this job. However, as orientations have passed and I get closer to ending my summer as an OTL, I find myself dreading the day that I’ll put my red polo away for good. It’s honestly devastating to know that one day I won’t be singing the “Fly in, Fly out” song twice a week with my fellow OTLs. I’m very scared for how I will feel during the last orientation session, but for right now, I’m trying to solely focus on how happy I am in the moment.

I was told by former Owl Team Leaders that this job changes how you see yourself, but I just played it off as an exaggeration. LOL @ me, because they were totally spot on. I don’t think this job has really changed me, but more so changed how I view myself and what I’m capable of. Reflecting on two months of self-discovery, interacting with students and countless inside jokes with coworkers who I now call some of my closest friends, I can honestly, 100% say that this job is like no other. 

You can ask me at 5:30 a.m. or at the ThinkFast orientation game show (arguably the best part of orientation), but my opinion of Owl Team will never change. I am so thankful to be living in this wonderful opportunity -- even if I do look like an overly-peppy Target worker.