A Nostalgic Look at the Necessity of Orientation

College May be Frightening But Those First Three Days Help Lessen Pre-College Jitters


Luke Oliver Villapaz

Orientation leaders know no bounds in their efforts to make new students feel welcome at Fordham. (Courtesy of Luke Villapaz)



Orientation leaders know no bounds in their efforts to make new students feel welcome at Fordham. (Courtesy of Luke Villapaz)

This year Fordham University will welcome a whole new body of students. Fresh-faced 18 year olds, right out of high school, will move into McMahon, journey up the escalators to Lowenstein, and bask in the glow of Lowenstein Café’s heating lamps.

To welcome these eager young students, Fordham must first orient them to the college world. This basically means three days of introduction to college life. New Student Orientation (NSO) leaders will run around like chickens with their heads cut off in an attempt to keep track of the students and make them realize no matter how awkward they feel, there are always orientation leaders (OLs) looking a lot odder than they do.

Yet some students feel like orientation is unnecessary, a waste of time and a hassle. I should know. Just three short years ago, I came to Fordham, terrified out of mind at the prospect of roommates, navigating the subway and college professors.

As I said good-bye to my parents, there was barely enough time to register the fact that I wouldn’t be seeing them again for three months until Thanksgiving. Instead I immediately went off into a small group where I played awkward games with kids I didn’t know and then felt like Lindsay Lohan in that scene from “Mean Girls” when she eats in the girls’ bathroom on her first day of high school. (I didn’t eat in the girls’ bathroom, but the situation sure seemed preferable to asking random strangers if I could sit and eat with them.)

Upon returning to my dorm, I had some forced conversations with my new suitemates. There was the native New Yorker, the dancer, the Midwesterners and the California girl. I was the Southern girl who, remarkably, had no accent, as I was told repeatedly.

Hell bent on getting along and trying not to begin the year on the wrong foot, we exchanged small talk until an overly enthusiastic OL came banging on our door, telling us we should go to the “Wild West” party happening that evening in the atrium. My suitemates and I had two options: sit and continue staring at each other too terrified to say anything that might embarrass us for the whole semester or go to this party where the upperclassmen would surely be embarrassing themselves enough for the bunch of us. We went with option two.

I won’t say I had the time of my life at the party. The terror I felt upon arrival made me leave almost the second I got there. But, ah, what was at this party but karaoke, and what fun-loving girl doesn’t enjoy karaoke?

Three of my suitemates and I guzzled down some Coca Cola’s and threw caution to the wind as we belted out our very own rendition of “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham! Actually, I could be entirely wrong about the song, but the point is, we’d only know each other a few hours and already we’d bonded over our love of subpar 80s pop. If it hadn’t been for that party orientation provided us with, we probably would have all retired to our rooms and called our parents, lamenting our first day at Fordham.

At McMahon Hall, one of the downsides is the closed-door policy. You end up going most of the year without meeting anyone on your floor because it’s a fire hazard to leave your door open. The nighttime activities actually allow you to meet other residents and learn you have semi-decent people on your floor worth hanging out with, which was a promise of hope if you already found yourself not getting along with your suitemates.

Plus, orientation helps bring residents and commuters together. With half of Fordham’s student body commuting and half of it residing, sometimes it’s difficult for the two sides to match up. Orientation tries to break down that barrier from the start, making it so that commuters and residents evenly take up each small group.

Just this past year in the laundry  room I ran into a girl whom I’d met at orientation. We hadn’t really seen each other in three years, but we immediately started talking, remembering how scared we were as freshmen. If it weren’t for orientation, we probably wouldn’t have even known we were in the same year.

I ended up enjoying orientation enough to become an OL my sophomore year and then a captain the following two years. I thought after freshman year I was as comfortable as I was going to get at Fordham, but each new year’s experience with NSO has made me more confident in my role at FCLC. Thus, NSO serves as both an ice breaker for new students and returning ones.

No student is going to spring into college without at least an iota of fear. Orientation helps lessen the intimidation and shows students that even if they feel completely lost, they’re definitely not alone.