#AfterOrientation: Reflections Of A New Student Orientation Staff Assistant.

Orientation season is coming to a close, and as it wraps up I can’t help but feel nostalgic about my own New Student Orientation, and the two great summers that I spent as an Orientation Staff Assistant.

I spent the last two summers of my undergraduate career working for New Student Orientation and they were magical-seriously, if you’ve ever been part of an Orientation program, you know there is something magic about it.

This summer, I am living back at my parents house, as I transition from undergrad to #SAGrad.  I struggled greatly at the beginning of summer.  I missed Marquette.  I missed my friends, and Northern Michigan University.  I missed the independence that college provided me.  I missed a lot, but I really missed the magic of Orientation.

The first morning of this summer’s staff training, I woke up bright and early, thinking that I was missing something.  I was no longer on staff-I was not even a student anymore-but I felt as if I was supposed to be in that conference room with the other 12 staff members.  I shook off that feeling, and headed into work for the day hoping my shift at the Blue Caribou Café would keep my mind off of things.  I slowly got over the feeling that I was missing out on staff training, but when the first day of sessions came, I found myself awake at 5 a.m. ready to go.  I would not be seeing any future Wildcats that day, but my mind was there-in Marquette, with staff and the nervous students and families-and even greater my heart there.

I channeled this energy by sending pick me ups to my friends that are working on staff this summer.  I know how the little encouragements go far and so I felt that I could do my part by sending my thoughts and love their way.  This helped a little but seeing social media posts about Orientation on campuses around the country had me yearning to be a part of the action.  I had this “put me in coach” feeling and I couldn’t shake it.  The only thing that got me through was reaching out to people that I knew on staff and encouraging them in every way that I knew possible.  I started connecting with people on Twitter and following university Orientation accounts.  This allowed me to see the fun that others were having, feel like I was part of the magic, and help me cope with the pit in my stomach that still ached for that magic of Orientation life.

So here I am tonight, at the near-end of Orientation season, reminiscing on my experiences and reflecting on what made that time so great.  This is what I came up with:

  • A welcoming staff, a strong program built on tradition, and pride for my university.
    • I was madly in love with Northern Michigan University, but it wasn’t until I started working with the New Student Orientation program that I truly understood what it meant to be a Wildcat.  My staff taught me about love, life, family, and belonging.  The traditions that this program were built on showed a pride for NMU, the UP, Michigan, and most of all oneself.  Orientation taught me that it is ok to let go, be yourself, and know that sometimes life will take an unexpected course, but to continue being myself and to never lose sight of what I’m most proud of, who I am, or what my values are.
  • A true sense of place and belonging
    • To have a sense of place is something so important to me.  I am the kind of person that falls deeply in love with wherever I am because I allow myself to be totally in the moment.  Because of this, I tend to be drawn to my surroundings, especially the natural environment around me.  I already had a love affair with the Upper Peninsula, but learning some of it’s history and the history of NMU during training for Orientation, I gained a new appreciation for the area around me and I felt a greater sense of place than ever before.  I believe wholeheartedly that I belong in the UP.  I am a Yooper, and I am wildly in love with the Great Lakes State.  I would not have discovered this pride for where I am from without connecting to my environment and learning some history.
  • Immense self growth
    • If it weren’t for my experiences with the New Student Orientation program at Northern Michigan University and my amazing staffs both summers, I would not be the person that I am today.  I learned and grew in my beliefs and values, academically, socially, and in ways that I never knew possible.  I learned so much about myself and about my friends, and about life in general.  It was these two amazing summers that led me to my future in Student Affairs.  It wasn’t until my senior year that I truly knew that this was the path that I wished to embark on.  It was Orientation that gave me the confidence and the recognition that this field was where I was meant to be.
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Staff hangout!  Brunch and cuddles are what we know best!

As this summer’s Orientation season comes to a close, I am reminded of how grateful I am for my experience with this program.  As the school year creeps ever closer, I am reminded that I will not be headed back up North this year, and I will have a totally different experience coming my way.  I hope that this year at USD brings more personal growth and development, a love for a new state and so much more!

 

-Joel

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