Over the summer, I had the opportunity to become an orientation leader for Rhode Island College. I remember receiving the email during the Spring 2023 semester and thinking, “Huh, this sounds quite interesting and unlike anything I’d ever do… I’m in.” As a first-generation college student and transfer student, I took it as a chance to be able to help new students navigate their first college experience. For those who might not have anyone to turn to for support, starting college can be quite intimidating and confusing. Having worked my last orientation session in January, here is a reflection of my experience being in the role.
My first experience as an orientation leader started with a week long training session attended by all of the orientation leaders, or OLs. I walked into a room of complete strangers that would soon become some of the best people I’ve ever met. Truthfully, it was awkward at first; you’re not sure how you fit into the equation and what kind of leader you’ll be, but eventually it all makes sense. Over the course of that week I had the chance to meet directors of different resources offered on campus. Being able to see how each resource catered to its students was fascinating and showed how much thought is put into each service. During the week, we also learned how to lead, but not in a one-size-fits-all method. We were encouraged to tap into our personal strengths and taught that not all leaders look the same. Instead of trying to mold us into a specific type of person, we were given the chance to be ourselves.
By the time the week is over, you are prepared to give a summarized tour of the school, perform icebreakers with your groups, answer or navigate any questions students might have and go through an orientation session. I know this seems like a big list and lots to remember and truth be told, it is, but the orientation staff does a great job of preparing you. As the first orientation session came around I was nervous, but as the day went on my confidence grew. Each OL has their own way of conquering orientation and if you take on the role you’ll find your own rhythm. A vast amount of care is put into orientation, so much so that after every orientation session we discussed ways we could be better. Striving for excellence and helping the students is what orientation is all about.
Being an OL came with a variety of perks: we were provided housing during the week-long training session and during each of the orientation sessions, three meal swipes a day, New Student Programs merch and a stipend. Aside from the material benefits, I gained priceless experiences and friendships. Learning how to be a leader is one of the most valuable and transferable skills a person could have and I truly believe this role is a great way to step into it.
Would I recommend this role to other students? Yes, I would. As a senior, I wanted to get more involved on campus and this role helped me do that. The work schedule was also super flexible and allowed me to pursue other jobs and activities during the summer. I’d like to thank my OL team, Alie Drew, Lisa Ferri, Jess Raffaele, Lindsay Petrarca and the rest of the departments and volunteers for taking on the huge task that is new student orientation. The New Student Programs department is looking for orientation leaders this summer. If you are interested, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.