Mukhi: Orientation: love it, leave it

Everyone at Case Western Reserve University has some uniting features.

We’re all smart, driven individuals who totally have our lives (and sleep schedules) planned. We’re all going to spend far too much time procrastinating doing laundry. As cheesy as it sounds, we’re all in this together.

I’m also sure that every student at CWRU remembers orientation week. We’re bombarded with information and numbers and email addresses. Some of it goes past us, but other pieces of information hopefully lodge themselves in our heads for when we need them. I like to think that orientation is like a “Crash Course” video. All the information is there, but we choose what parts and presentations and organizations to remember. Regrettably, some of that information may include the names and faces of people I’ve met.

As my roommate and I stumbled in from Sparty, exhausted and sweaty from too many pop songs and not enough EDM (his opinion, mostly), I asked him, “So… What did you think of orientation?”

He paused. We laughed for a second. He said, “There were highs and lows; some of those lows were dropped on the dance floor.”

It’s been about a week since we said goodbye to our parents, met our orientation leaders, began adjusting to life with zero privacy and started learning names again. First-year students, I think, really enjoyed orientation. I know I did.

There are, however, a few things that need more emphasis and a few things that could (and should) be changed for next year. I liked that the orientation groups were so small that I could get to know people. I appreciated that these groups were (generally) part of the same building. Diversity 360, although three hours long, was an amazing experience for me. I graduated from a predominantly white, upper class high school where the easiest thing to do was to just try to blend in with people of a different culture than my own.

The message of Diversity 360, best summarized as “nobody should have to feel like they hide themselves”, hit home. Because of that one experience, I’ve opened up a lot more about opinions, beliefs and practices in ways that I wouldn’t have at my high school. I’ve definitely spoken out a couple of times about why I say certain things and have gotten a lot more comfortable talking about ethnicity. However, some other extended periods of time weren’t exactly appreciated.

The tour of university resources in the Tinkham Veale University Center became really congested. While I understand that the task of coordinating up to half of the first-year class is a nearly impossible one, I know that my orientation group missed a couple of important resources. We all know where each resource is, just not what the resources can do for us.

One of the resources we did visit, however, was the Center for Civic Engagement and Learning (CCEL), which hosted the service day events for incoming freshmen, including the “Learn to Farm” event. Keeping in mind that I’m from the fourth largest city in the United States and I plan to major in computer science, it’s confusing to people why I might do the CCEL service event at the University Farm. In a stylized, sanitary picture in my head, I thought that I’d get my hands dirty before I went to my pristine, clean workspace and dirt-free, air-conditioned education.

Instead, a group of first-year students picked and uprooted tomato plants, peppers and weeds in order to prepare for the fall planting. We also (unintentionally) inhaled a fraction of the whitefly outbreak affecting a “hoop house” greenhouse. However, CCEL ended up being a fantastic opportunity to meet people and experience things outside my norm (including dirty fingernails).

All in all, I think that orientation was fantastic, but I would have liked a more comprehensive sheet with numbers and resources that I could, for example, stick up in my room. There are Microsoft PowerPoint slides with those resources, but my photos of them are scattered through the photographs I took and memories I made of orientation.

Orientation seemed to be a microcosm of this university; resources are available if you know where to look. This last week showed us the tools.

Now it’s time to use them.