Back and Better

Here we are, back in our favorite co(llege)w town, and honestly, it hasn’t changed much. I’ve recently decided I am okay with that. This past summer, I never left Davis, and that was not necessarily a bad thing. I stayed in Davis this summer because I got a job as an Orientation Leader. I know; it sounds horrible. But contrary to what many assume, it was one of the most rewarding summers that I have ever had. Granted, it was very not here, I got a terrible shorts tan, and I wasn’t home with my family as often as I would have preferred, but the fact that I found another family here at Davis is a feat I consider a pretty close second to having my actual family nearby.

When I was an incoming first-year student, I was nervous to attend orientation, as most students are, and when I got here, I remember feeling as if I had not received the help I needed in order to make a Fall Quarter schedule that was full of classes that I needed and wanted. I felt an oddly distant welcome from those who were closest to me during the two-day program, and I blamed the program at its foundational level because the institution as a whole did a substantial amount of work to assure me that I would find a community somewhere on campus, so I had the feeling that it would get better. And, well, it definitely did; however, since my experience was not terrible, but also, not exactly the one I wanted when first visiting Davis, I was ready to change that.

So, during Winter Quarter of last year, I saw on Facebook (of all places, I know) that the First-Year Orientation Program was hiring, and I thought that I should apply. At first, I wasn’t completely invested, and I was still deciding whether or not I was okay with spending a major portion of my summer in the Davis, and better yet, I found out I would still have to live in the dorms, so I was not ready to commit. Nonetheless, I still sent my application into what felt like the void, waiting to see if I would get called for an interview. A couple weeks later, I received an email asking me to sign up for an interview spot. I did, and then, by the end of February, I got the email saying I got the job. I was surprised when I saw the email. It had been so long that I assumed they forgot about me. What’s funny is that I barely hesitated to accept the position, regardless of my previous reservations about it.

When the time finally came for First-Year Orientation to begin, I have to admit that I was concerned. I wasn’t friends with any of the other Orientation Leaders (yet), and I was afraid that I never would be. Well, I was terribly wrong. The fact is, Orientation made my entire summer worthwhile. I was able to help first-year students in a way that sometimes not even academic advisors can do. Orientation Leaders (OLs) are the first-year students’ first impression of the UC Davis atmosphere, so everyday when I woke up for work, I was happy. I was tired, but I knew I would be meeting new students and helping more people. There is something to be said about the student perspective that OLs can offer to incoming students, and making connections is inevitable. Even now that the quarter has begun, some of my students have contacted me, seen me around campus or downtown, and given me hugs. They recognize me, and although I did ten sessions of orientation this summer, I somehow managed to connect with these students in such a way that has helped me to never forget them, and quite honestly, I hope they never forget me.

This summer has opened up my mind to an entirely new realm of service (and I was paid for it). I was given the opportunity to become close with a new group of individuals: the students and the staff. Our OL staff was decently sized; however, we all somehow managed to know each other and become comfortable with each other. This job has created some of my closest friendships here at Davis, and I couldn’t be happier. Looking back, becoming an OL was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I would do it again.