At the end of June, I attended my college orientation. Below, you’ll get a peek into my college orientation experience, the sessions I attended, and what could be in store for the incoming college freshman in your life!
Leading up to my orientation I was madly googling and pinteresting and scouring my favorite college blogs for information. I wanted to know it all! What to expect, what we would do, who I would meet, I couldn’t wait! Obviously I couldn’t find all of this information online – after all I wouldn’t know who I would meet until I actually met them. I wouldn’t know what kind of room I was in until I was actually in the room. I wouldn’t know how my future classmates would react to Peggy until I was actually surrounded by them.
I had read everything about what I should bring and expect. I felt as prepared as I could possibly be as I climbed into the car Thursday morning on my way to my university, with my parents and service dog in tow.
When we arrived we made the short (but uphill) trek to the registration building. I was holding onto my mom’s arm for support, but this is the only intense hill on the entire campus and I would be good for the rest of orientation! All of the student volunteers were excited but not overly obnoxious, which I definitely appreciated. I am enthusiastic and can’t wait to support my school, don’t get me wrong! I had just been fully prepared for everyone to be obnoxious and they weren’t. They were happy, peppy, and eager to help – nothing over the top.
While I was getting my folder of information, a woman came up to me and introduced herself. She explained that she was working on room assignments and had given me two. One in the rooms with everyone else, and one in a different building without a roommate that was closer to all of the events that would be happening. I chose the second, because proximity to everything was more important to me than being with everyone else. I was given a lift key for the wheelchair lift so that I could bypass one section of stairs if I had my chair, or if the stairs weren’t manageable (as they all too often aren’t).
We were shown to the building and my room, and I was able to drop off my belongings before heading to the welcome session. We stopped for lunch in the dining hall, where I was able to introduce myself to the chef and some of the kitchen staff. My parents had lunch from a buffet but due to my dietary restrictions I couldn’t! They offered to make me some chicken to put on a salad from the salad bar, but we didn’t have time, so I just had a salad. Let me just say, there were a ton of options and it was a delicious little salad that I created for myself.
The welcome session was surreal. Peggy was fantastic, and we sat in the back on an aisle seat. I just soaked it all in, and looked around the room seeing my future classmates and their families holding onto every last word. There were quite a few parent’s scattered throughout the audience shedding some tears. One of my favorite quotes from the weekend came from the university President at the welcome session.
Yes it may be nerdy, but let me break it to you. You’re nerdy already. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t do nerdy things.
The whole time I couldn’t help but think to myself “I made the right choice.” Towards the end of the session as the student orientation leaders were introducing themselves, a woman came over to me and told me that I could leave the room now and go to where my group is meeting so that I don’t have to worry about being caught in the flood of students leaving the room. I got up and went with her, and was able to get a few minutes of quiet before the day really took off. As the students began to pour out of the room to find their groups, I sat out of the way and observed. A lot of faces lit up when they saw Peggy, and a few students asked if they could pet her. I don’t allow her to be pet when she’s working because she needs to focus on me, but she was perfect and the students were extremely polite and understanding when I told them no. While everyone was milling around and finding their groups the dean of my class came over and introduced herself to me. She knew exactly who I was, so at this point I decided everyone had been briefed that there was a girl with a dog. We chatted until the groups began to disperse, and I joined mine on their way out of the building.
My orientation group consisted of about 12 students. We were a pretty diverse group, with intended majors from engineering to speech pathology to finance. For ice breakers we didn’t do anything uncomfortable or intense, and they weren’t anything I’d worry about. We had a beach ball with questions written on it and we passed it around, answering whichever question our thumb landed on.
After this we went to a presentation on the core curriculum at my university. We have 19 required courses in everything from natural sciences to a language to philosophy! Unfortunately I couldn’t really hear much from the back of the room, but I already knew most of the information from my intensive researching/stalking of the school’s website. We split up to attend an academic advising session of sorts. Everyone was pre registered for a couple classes and this is where we were given our partially completed schedules. Not all schools do this, but some do. I had been pre-registered for three courses, and had a nice schedule already set out for me. All I needed to do was add to it! From here we had an hour in the dining hall to mingle with fellow classmates. There were snacks, but of course I couldn’t eat them so I don’t really have much to report on that front! I ended up leaving it early to meet up with my mom for to take Peggy on a quick run.
Now this is where it gets weird – I was walking with a girl from my orientation group with some people she’d met on my way to where my mom told me to meet her, when I heard a voice call my name. I turned around to find a guy I went to elementary school with! What are the odds?
We started to catch up and then headed to the non-denominational mass which was next on the schedule. My school is technically religious and has a big, beautiful church on campus where any student can return to be married in. I must say, for a religious institution my university is very liberal. During the half hour service I ended up having to lay down due to POTS, but by the end of it I was able to stand up and walk out. Overall, it was a pretty neat experience!
At this point it was 7:00, but did you think it was dinner time? You’d be mistaken. Next came the housing presentation. Peggy startled the boys sitting in front of us when one turned his head and came face to face with her. It was a pretty funny reaction! They asked me a couple of questions about service dogs, and I was happy to take the opportunity to educate them. I actually left this session a bit early because I desperately needed to pee. Ironically, the girls I was sitting between did too, so we left together.
We rejoined our orientation group as they left the theatre, and sat in a group to discuss our day and ask any questions we had thought of. If you get an opportunity to ask questions don’t be afraid to say whatever is on your mind. Odds are that you aren’t the only one thinking about it!
Now it was finally dinner time, and dinner was tacos. I went to the dining staff and asked if they knew what food was safe for me. I was not expecting to be told the chef had prepared me my own special meal! A plate of beef seasoned with just salt, also known as this potsies dream meal. There were corn tortillas as well, however I’m not a fan of those. It may not have been the most well-rounded meal, but it was quite delicious.
After dinner? A fun show put on by some of the orientation leaders about the realities of college life. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see most of this because Peggy alerted and I laid down in the back of the theatre. Thankfully, an orientation leader had led me to a seat in the back row on the end, so sliding onto the ground didn’t disrupt anyone! Ironically enough, the kid who was sitting in front of me was an acquaintance from my high school, and said I could put my feet up on the back of his chair (thanks Jordan!).
The night ended with a choice between basketball or volleyball, a silent disco, or a movie. I went to the silent disco, and am so happy with that decision! For those of you who have never heard of a silent disco and aren’t quite sure how it works, let me break it down for you. Upon entering the room everyone was handed a headset. One side had a dial to control volume (this chronic headache patient’s favorite thing ever), and the other had a switch that allowed you to bounce around between three stations. Each of the stations was constantly playing something, and you could switch stations whenever you wanted. Everyone around you could tell what you were listening to based on the color of your headset, which coordinated with the stations.
It. Was. So. Much. Fun.
Taking a break from it all to watch everyone dancing and hear some people singing to nothing when you took your headset off was also quality entertainment. If you ever get the opportunity to attend a silent disco, I 100% recommend it. The girls I was hanging out with even kept dancing around me when I had to sit down, instead of me going off to the side to sit on my own like I normally would.
At the end of the silent disco we caught the end of Moana (because it’s amazing and if you haven’t seen it yet it’s on Netflix, go watch it!), before heading back to our respective residence halls.
Before I went to sleep, I took some photos of my room to share with you! I was in a wheelchair accessible double. The room was spacious with nice light, and plenty of room to get around.
I was also surprised at the size of the closets and wardrobes. They were much larger than I expected! The beds were made and there were towels, wash clothes, and soap provided.
Across the hall was the bathroom, which is shared with the double next door. Basically, because this bathroom was designed to be accessible, it was incredibly spacious. I don’t really know how different the other bathrooms are in comparison to the accessible one, because this is the only bathroom I had access to. The shower had a built in shower bench which I was pleasantly surprised by.
Friday morning I had my alarm set for 6:45 am. I dragged myself out of bed, and got ready for the day. As I got all my stuff together, I noticed that it was pouring. Not raining, pouring. My parents didn’t spend the night in the residence halls because I live within driving distance of my university. My mom texted me that she could pick me up from my building and drive me across campus on her way over to the parents events for the day. They drove me and one of the girl’s I’d met the previous day to check out, where we turned in our keys, and then over to breakfast.
Whereas Thursday was a day of learning about things, Friday was about doing them. After breakfast we had a short session about academic life. Then we registered for housing and meal plans! At my university to request a roommate you needed their student ID. If you aren’t planning on going random for your roommate, it’s worth looking into what information you’ll need to select yours!
Next came a final chat with our orientation group, while we waited for our ID photos to be taken. Sadly, Peggy (my service dog) didn’t get a University ID, as my new classmates had been hoping.
Lunch is where things got a bit shaky for me. I had to take a couple of breaks on the short walk from where the photos were taken to the dining hall. By the time I had gathered my lunch things weren’t getting better. Thankfully, Peggy alerted before I ended up losing consciousness… twice.
Of course, my passing out slowed things down a bit and I was late to class registration. When I arrived most people were already finished, but the staff was incredibly helpful. I had some issues sorting things and their patience and eagerness to help was astounding.
Once my schedule was finalized I rejoined parents and headed home. Exhausted, but excited. Schedule in hand. I cannot wait to start school in the fall!
This was my college orientation experience!
What surprised me the most was the people who went out of their easy to introduce themselves to me. These people I found myself with throughout orientation – the dean, a few other adults I came across, and a few of the orientation leaders – knew what my disability was, and my limitations. No one expected me to take the stairs, I was always led to an elevator. No one expected me to walk quickly, they asked me if I needed a break. My orientation leaders even brought extra water bottles with them just for me! When I found this out I was absolutely floored. Their dedication to making sure that I had the best experience possible was mind blowing.
I hope that this eases the nerves of anyone going into orientation, or proves to be a helpful glance into what you may experience!
Do you know an incoming college freshman preparing for their college orientation? Maybe a high school senior who just can’t wait to know all they can about college? Share this with them!