One First-Year’s New Student Orientation Experience

Zoe Hill
Contributing Writer

Cover photo courtesy of Zoe Hill 

While I was laying poolside in the extremely hot months of June and July, most of my college-bound friends were spending some of their sunshine days in dorms and eating at dining halls as part of their college orientation. First-year students at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio State University and Wright State University attended orientation in the middle of their summers. Meanwhile, I shopped for wall decorations and desk organizers for move-in day. It is safe to say things happen a little differently here at the University of Dayton.

The beginning of New Student Orientation for me was a 6 a.m. alarm and a thirty minute car ride over to campus. I participated in the Honors Student Orientation the morning of move-in, where the punishment for being the top of the class was early-morning ice breakers. Moving in was actually a pretty smooth process for my family and me. The lines were shorter thanks to that early Honors move-in, and all of the student orientation staff were ready for every question my mom threw their way. 

I got everything settled in after an hour or two of sheet tugging and desk organizing. My family and my roommate’s family headed over to the RecPlex to begin the day’s activities, and that is when all of us realized the magnitude of what orientation was at UD. There were a few hundred Honors students and their respective family members in the main gym, which, we later learned, was only about a third of the expected turnout for New Student Orientation. After several speakers took turns introducing us to the university and welcoming us as the class of 2023, I parted ways with my family as they let the first years loose to find their Honors orientation leaders. Although Honors orientation was only a small fraction of my orientation experience, it is worth mentioning it because it gave me an insider’s view on what I had coming up. 

One of the first things my Honors orientation leaders said to the group was something along the lines of: “Strap in for orientation. It will be a ride, but you will get through it. We promise.” After icebreakers, tours and panels, we parted ways with our Honors orientation leaders, but only after they gave us a little gift: a branded wristband and a color-coded lanyard. 

By the evening of August 16, orientation had truly begun. I learned early on that the colored name tags and wristbands were a way of sorting us. Each and every one of the first- year students was assigned to major-based groups, and luckily for me, much of my Honors group translated to my new orientation group, effectively referred to as Team Two. I was fortunate enough to have an incredible group of individuals accompany me for the next five days. Each one of them was friendly and sociable in their own way, and they really made the experience of orientation memorable. The lot of us had an especially unique experience because our orientation leader was the one and only Xayvion Bridges, a sophomore communications major as well as a seasoned orientation veteran due to his mother being Dr. Re’Shanda Grace-Bridges, director of student transitions and family programs. Because of this, I got a personable orientation that allowed me to connect with amazing people and collect insider knowledge on the ins and outs of the University of Dayton.

As anyone who has been through the university’s orientation would know, it is a very drawn out and busy five days. At any given time, I felt like I had too much free time, but I also had to be somewhere different every hour. There were so many events, it is almost hard to recall even just a few now. However, the ones that do stick out to me are Frolic on the Field, Party in the Plaza, Rudypalooza and Night at the Rec. These are what I like to refer to as forced socialization. As an inherent introvert, these late-night mandatory parties were not my cup of tea. I spent most of my time standing around with my roommate trying to act like we were enjoying ourselves. I have to admit, whatever the university was trying to do with these events ended up working in a sort of reverse way. I met several new friends who also spent their nights swaying impassionately to the DJ’s set. 

As much as I would have liked to be cynical about the whole thing, I found myself with a new person or a new memory by the end of each night. To be honest, I do not think that the events were really all that bad. I just do not think that everyone was thrilled to stand in a mob of 2,050 students⁠—one of the largest freshman classes to date. On top of that, it was never as simple as signing out, rather there was dread and anxiety attached to getting a QR code scanned. This was probably the most unfavorable part of new student orientation, and it needs to be better adapted to accommodate the large class size and the poor student orientation leaders who have to deal with them. 

Experience wise, Rudypalooza stole the show for my roommate and me during orientation weekend. We had so much fun watching the mentalist and the comedian perform. 

Although I went into each day dreading the schedule, I have to admit, the university got me to have fun trying new things like a spin class at the RecPlex, not to mention all of the free stuff I managed to compile the week of orientation. By far, my favorite part of orientation was when we stripped it all down in an event called True Talk. I think everyone in my group learned a thing or two when we dropped all of the pretenses and facades and just had a real conversation about our worries and expectations going into college. Our orientation leader helped us to understand that no one really knows “how to college.” This gave us some peace of mind to carry on the rest of the week. 

Post-orientation, I view my time convening at the RecPlex for speeches and meeting in Humanities 207 for team time as almost a rite of passage for each and every person past and future who makes the best decision they can make: choosing the University of Dayton to call home. I let out a sigh of relief when that university pin was stuck on me at convocation. Although there were a few times I definitely called my mom half-jokingly threatening to drop out, reflecting on my orientation group, most of whom I still see and talk to daily, I can honestly say the mandatory socialization was well worth it.  

Photos taken by Christian Cubacub

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