Thursday, September 3, 2015

Decoding College Orientation and Learning the Ropes

By Mengying Bi
Student Ambassador

University of Pennsylvania

As a newcomer to college, whether you're a domestic or international student, orientation programs are extremely helpful for adjusting to campus life. During your first few weeks at school, you might encounter different types of orientations that are for freshmen, transfer students, international students, and others. 

Though you may initially feel a little overwhelmed by the fact that you need to attend several orientations not long after arriving on campus, trust me: They are worth it.
Some orientations aim to familiarize you with campus facilities and services. During my first year at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), I attended three of these kind of sessions. It may sound crazy, but doing so ultimately saved me time that would have otherwise been wasted getting lost on campus between classes or on my way to lunch.

College orientation programs can also provide you with information on the valuable resources that you have access to at your school. For example, during our library orientation, I learned how to gather sources for academic writing through the university’s databases. During safety and security orientation, I was informed of the free shuttle and walking escort services. The university has the students’ best interest in mind; they're trying to create an environment for us to learn, live, and grow. These types of orientations enable you to make the most out of college life.

Aside from on-campus orientations, there are usually some off-campus orientations too (and sometimes, they might be labeled as tours). You would, for instance, definitely regret missing the food truck tour around Penn’s campus, especially when you become bored with the food from the cafeterias and desperately want to try something new. A night tour of the city or town of the university is also beneficial for exploring different restaurants and bars. You could find many amazing spots for entertainment by attending these orientations or off-campus tours.

Similar to orientations, you should also check out the events taking place on campus during your first few weeks. Don’t be shy; just go for it! You can meet like-minded people and make new friends. You might find your community and build connections with people. This sense of belonging will go a long way in your campus life. For example, I attended the Pan Asian American reception with an Asian-American friend and met a Ph.D. student there who shared my academic interests. We began taking classes together, and he let me work on one of his projects with him. Over time, we developed a deep friendship, and I can't imagine what my life would have been like if I didn't attend that reception.

In short, welcome to your new campus life and be sure to enjoy your welcome orientations!

Mengying Bi will earn a Master of Science in education from the University of Pennsylvania in May 2016. She focuses specifically on education, culture, and society. Mengying is from China.

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