With this year presenting plenty of new challenges for students, staff and faculty alike, being on orientation staff this year was certainly an interesting experience.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, orientation as a whole was flipped on its head in a big way. The first and most obvious change is that pretty much the whole thing had to be online with everybody being home in June. Welcome Days added a bit of normalcy with our staff being able to be in person and on campus but, with move in getting pushed back, we had to do everything over zoom.
Another difficulty was constantly having to adapt to an evolving schedule that could change on a moment’s notice. As somebody who tries his best to put his best professional foot forward with employers, I had gotten frustrated by not knowing what was really going on and when I was needed. When I got on campus, however, and saw how hard my bosses, the coordinators, President Treadwell and countless other faculty were working, I realized there was really nobody to be mad at.
After I realized this, I kind of just began rolling with the punches because it was clear that we were all trying to adapt to this and I didn’t see a point in being angry about something that nobody can control. I also began just wanting to have as positive of an experience as possible, so I tried to radiate that energy as best I could to both my students and my fellow staff.
My fellow staff members made this very easy as they all seemed very nice and I was able to have some great conversations with plenty of them. This positive energy is also thanks to my coordinators and bosses for creating an environment where we can go from having serious conversations to joking around within a few minutes. I appreciated all of this very much because when June couldn’t happen in person, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to connect with the staff as much, but those concerns were quickly alleviated.
I cannot mention orientation without talking about the students and I must say, although I haven’t been able to meet them in person yet, I think they constantly showed a lot of adaptability and they made this experience special. They pretty much always had good participation and I feel like many of the interactions were genuine. My students also consistently made me feel comfortable in my position and I hope that they also felt comfortable.
These conversations opened my eyes to the power of opening up to others and made it abundantly clear that all of us college students aren’t too different. We all share this sense of nervousness, wanting to belong and wanting to feel like we’re making the right decisions. Knowing that all my students were in a similar boat as me, or having their own struggles, reinforced the idea that we are all in this together.
Overall, this was not the experience I had anticipated, but I still got much of the same fulfillment out of it that I was expecting. I got to connect with new students and can continue connecting with them over the course of the semester. I had bonding moments with many of the staff members and I now have the confidence to face different challenges and know that I am capable of adapting.
Cristian Valentin can be contacted at