For some recent high school grads, the August air is heavy with anticipation for what all the early-morning SATs, adrenaline-fueled essay workshops and desperate tears were for: college. More than anything, I was excited. Unfortunately, Kenyon’s orientation managed to mask any positive emotions I had about starting college and replaced them with fear and a loathing for picnics I never expected.
Logistically, orientation did its job. It took care of language requirements, introduced us to our advisors and answered questions about classes and professors. I suppose that is the ultimate goal of orientation.
But it was not anyone’s definition of fun. Arguably one of the most anxiety-producing concepts for a new college student is making friends. Mandatory panels on diversity, sober games in Gund and ice cream socials are not the best ways to do it. It was too long, the schedule was too tight, the picnics were awkward and filled with the same food every time. What took us a week could have been done in a few days. While there were attempts at getting us to make friends and bond, they were not executed well.
After talking to friends from other schools, it has come to my attention that force might be the best tool to use here. Orientation for most of my friends involved outdoor trips before the start of classes. While we have pre-orientation programs, these are not mandatory. They did not force all students to get up close and personal with each other, which might be the best way to get rid of the intense orientation awkwardness. Outdoor trips may sound daunting, but not all pre-orientations have to involve tirelessly trekking the Appalachian Trail. Some trips involve learning how to cook sustainable meals, volunteering throughout the area or practicing yoga and meditation.
While textbook Q-and-A’s, Dear White People — a film that addresses tensions associated with being diverse in a homogenous community — and department presentations are all important, it would be beneficial to have more bonding activities that allow students to get comfortable with each other. It could only help to add more low-key bonding time. After I was done with the “important” parts of orientation all I wanted was a nap, not to put on makeup and a deceiving smile and try to look presentable to get people to be my friend.
I know, I know, there is only so much the administration can do to make a large group of teens feel less awkward. All I’m saying is that if we were more comfortable around each other there would be less complaining about the same meals at picnics, general awkwardness and lack of air conditioning.
Jaqueleen Eng ’19 is undeclared from Chatham, N.J. Contact her at email@example.com.