I am going to start this blog post off with several apologies. First, I apologize to the Assistant Director of New Student Orientation at IU Dan Murphy who asked me to write this post about 3 months ago…oops. Second, to We Are IU for not writing all summer. And finally to everyone who likes to read my blogs, if anyone actually does.
The reason I have been absent from the We Are IU universe for so long is because I have been consumed by the world of New Student Orientation at IU. This was my second year as a part of the “OTeam” as we call it and I have spent the majority of my college career as a part of it. I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you told the average person, “I work for orientation” the first thing that they would say is, “Oh, you give tours?”. Well I am here to tell you that the OTeam does give one tour a day…optional…at 9 pm at night (I hope you’re catching my angst at the tour guide stereotype) but that is just a couple hours of the 17 hour day that many of the Orientation Leaders will work. You heard me right, 17 hours, 7 am – midnight. Why on earth would anyone want to spend 17 hours a day for six weeks straight in 100+ degree weather telling students how to access their OneStart account and calming parents down when they are overwhelmed at the size of the campus? Because I can say with 100% confidence that being a part of the OTeam at IU is the best on campus leadership experience that you will find as an undergrad. Let me explain…
In what other job could you say that as an incoming junior you supervised a team of 26 student staff members (some older than you) through six weeks of a 15-17 hour work days while you welcomed over 6500 new students to Indiana University? You can’t say that about any other job, but I can because I’m a Student Coordinator on the OTeam. I could most definitely talk about Orientation for days on end but I’ll try to sum it up in the three things that I took away from working it, in traditional We Are IU blog fashion.
1. What it Means to Serve
We have a concept on the OTeam called “First Show, Every Show” that means that each and every student and guest that comes through New Student Orientation gets the same experience. No excuses, no explanations. It doesn’t matter if you are tired, everyone is tired. It doesn’t matter if you something is going on outside of the “Orientation Bubble”, everyone has stuff going on. We are here to make sure that EVERY student feels connected to the university and feels welcome here. If we as Orientation Leaders are not at our best, people will notice. If one student decides to not come to IU in the fall because their Orientation Leader was checked out, then we fail. We take great pride in serving those who chose Indiana.
2. Being Inclusive
Before working Orientation I was very unaware and naïve of the power that words have. In the world of Orientation, one comment or even one poorly chosen word can alienate an incoming student unintentionally and have them form the wrong opinion about the IU community. This may sound ridiculous to you as you read this, but I promise you the language that you use on a daily basis does impact others. Using derogatory terms in unacceptable at Orientation and it has become unacceptable in my daily life now because I was an Orientation Leader. I am so much more aware of the way that I speak and the way that others speak and I am no longer afraid to challenge someone if they say something that offends me or could offend someone else. New Student Orientation was eye opening for me in this way.
3. The Amazing Relationships That Are Built
If you spend enough time with the same group of people and you go through something difficult together, you will undoubtedly become a family. That’s what happens each summer on the OTeam. I have formed more close friendships and met certain individuals who have changed my life on the OTeam than anywhere else. You get to really know people as you go through this together. You learn to support each other, challenge each other, and just be there for each other. Not everyone on the team becomes best friends of course, but I have learned something valuable from each and every person that I worked with this summer.
So, yes being an Orientaiton Leader is tough but it’s the best decision I ever made. I started my time on the OTeam as an undecided freshman student from small town Indiana with absolutely no campus involvement and no connection to IU. Now, I have a prominent leadership role in the largest student organization on campus (SAA). I have met people such as Dean of Students Dr. Goldsmith and the “Voice of IU Basketball” Don Fischer. I will be spending the next semester in Washington, DC with an internship through SPEA and I have so many new lifelong friends. Everything good that has happened to me at IU has been because of the OTeam. If you're looking for a way to get involved at IU but don’t know how, there is no better place to start than #OTeam.
[Disclaimer: not every work day is 17 hours, it's just the longest day you work during the week :) ]