It’s that time of the year again. The bulldozers and orange jackets have been replaced by freshly-placed sod and the new Commencement Walk with its grout still hardening. The barbershop quartets, Church of Latter Day Saints teens and high school cheerleaders are all gone; their two-month rental of our campus is finally over. Summer is still in full force weatherwise, but Fall beckons the return of what makes up Puget Sound’s essence: the students.
Freshmen are wandering around campus right now with parents trying to sneakily take photos without any rebuke. Orientation leaders are singing songs and dancing dances and being their goofy, approachable selves. School staff are running around trying to get all the final paperwork sorted out, and dealing with the unpredictable problems that are bound to occur from time to time when nearly seven-hundred students first step foot on campus as Loggers. It’s a beautiful bedlam.
And I’m seeing it all take place with a whole new lens.
Freshman year’s lens was inarguably one of survival, with so much of the larger picture blurred past the point of comprehension. The past two years, as an RA I had the chance to move-in a single floor of students–which is great, except for the fact that you don’t really get a chance to step back and see the entire canvas of commotion.
But this year has been different. In my role with ASUPS, I can see the administrative, staff, student leader and freshmen perspective. I can see optimism being overwhelmed by anxiety, and vice versa. Some freshmen follow their parents around campus for the first few hours, while others lead them like an anxious dog tugging on a leash–ready to be let free. Though we talk so much about entire classes, it’s refreshing to see the uniqueness of all the students. Their college experiences are about to begin, infusing a contagious energy into everyone within a ten-block radius of the Wheelock Student Center.
So what do we do with this energy? With this perspective? The three-step plan, of course:
One: We reflect back on our own. I remember what I was like as a freshman, dodging my mom’s camera while trying to figure out who I was going to talk to first. Enduring the awkwardness of Playfair until enjoyment kicked in. Buying things at the late-night Fred Meyer trip despite the fact that I didn’t need them. Passages and Perspectives (considering freshmen haven’t experienced these yet, I’ll leave them as abstract concepts for the time being). When I compare who I was with who I am now, it’s quite incredible. And almost all of my friends will admit to the same revelation–we have unknowingly came a long way together, individually and collectively.
Two: We do whatever we can to help make their experience just as fulfilling as ours was. From events–Playfair, the Hoedown, the Hypnotist and free ice cream scoops–to appearances and simple handshakes, we try to be a constructive presence without being an intrusion. This is their experience, not ours. But that does not mean we can’t participate and help it be the best that it possibly can.
Three: We channel that energy and ensure that it is aimed in a positive direction. Orientation is somewhat of a navigational experience; it takes the energy of a beginning and focuses it into a momentum for the coming year[s]. That momentum can carry freshmen (and the rest of us) through the numerous hurdles that the academic year presents–from research papers to annoying illnesses to alarms slept through–to the good parts. Freshmen year is difficult, but the good far outweighs the bad. As student leaders within ASUPS, it is our responsibility not only to foster energy and enthusiasm, but to provide meaningful ways for it to be exercised. Within all our student leadership opportunities, events and programs, and just daily work in general, we have an organization that allows freshmen not only to survive but to fluorish. That is why we do what we do, and do it proudly.
A beautiful bedlam is what we have now. And really, that alliterative title could sum up most of our college experiences. No wonder everyone is so excited.