You are not signed in. Sign In  

Reflections of an Orientation Leader

Kristin Lin, Class of 2016, looks back on her experience as an Orientation Leader.

Orientation Leaders (more commonly called “O-Leaders” or “OLs”) are returning students who apply to lead the Chicago Life Meetings (CLMs) during Orientation Week. Right before O-Week, we attend four days of leadership and informational workshops that acclimate us to resources and programming on campus. We subsequently take the information and skills that we learn and impart our newly minted wisdom upon the first-years, whether it be through the CLMs or in less formal situations.

An aura of déjà vu surrounds my experience with being an Orientation Leader: For much of the two weeks, I felt like I was attending orientation for the first time, instead of as a returning student.

For one thing, I learned so much about the University’s cornucopia of resources during our four days of training: You can access local and cable channels through a University streaming system! Our House Fellow can give us funding to go to academic events with our house! You can get free back rubs at Ratner! As a first year, these small, albeit useful, perks seem to wash down the river of your consciousness when you’re nervous about the big things—like making friends and not getting lost on the quad. But when you’re a returning student (like myself), these details become important when you start to realize that the only thing missing in your life on a college campus is, in fact, cable TV.

So I suppose the big secret surrounding O-leading is this: Though OLs are trained for the sake of the incoming first-years, the ultimate beneficiary of all the preparation could just be ourselves.

That’s right: We may look totally selfless as we volunteer our Sunday mornings to help the first-years move in, or when we are leading the three mandatory Chicago Life Meetings, which serve to acclimate new students to living in a city and diverse community. But when it comes down to it, I think that I got so much more out of this week than I ever would have expected. We received professional leadership development from a public speaking consultant in preparation for the CLMs; we were gifted the precious time of top campus administrators, who informed us of all the changes on campus.

But it’s not an entirely self-serving gig, and I was reminded of that very quickly after training, when my first-years filed in for our first CLM. It was right after convocation, right after everyone had parted with their parents. And though no one said a word about leaving their old lives behind Hull Gate a mere twenty minutes before, I could sense a nervous uncertainty in the room—it was the exact feeling I had following my convocation. As these first-years shifted around in their chairs and chatted quietly to the near-strangers sitting next to them, I was reminded of how much had changed and how much I had grown in a year, and subsequently how much potential these first years have to do the same—or even more. And it’s an honor to be any part of that process.  

-Kristin Lin, Class of 2016, Dallas, TX