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An Overwhelming Welcome

By Skylar Alley
On August 22, 2021

Photo by Matthew S. Hicks/

The jump from your hometown to a university in a new state filled with strangers is a jarring one: your world turning from living with family, surrounded by childhood friends, to sharing a room and wing with new college students from across the states, some even leaving their home country. In order to help new arrivals feel comfortable in this environment, Ottawa University holds a rigorous orientation program that begins when the sun rises and ends when the stars are out.


The schedule can feel disjointed and inappropriately placed, specifically the placement of the inflatables party. This year, it was a joyous event, with food trucks, a caricature artist and an inflatable obstacle course. However, there was also a dark shadow of nausea and discomfort coming from the lecture: ALICE training. ALICE training was an important lesson about school shooters, showing videos of the killer's movements in Parkland as he shot innocent teachers and students, a haunting phone call from a librarian who was murdered in Columbine, vital strategies to take down an armed gunman and ways to listen to your instincts. So after listening to these disturbing videos and discussing such a heavy topic, does it feel right to immediately jump into a party? 


“I think it was inappropriate and kinda insensitive,” freshman Bethany Zepeda says. 


This rapid tone shift is one of the many problems with orientation.


The orientation schedule was also packed with non-stop lectures, activities and some forced mingling, making it impossible to rest. Traveling miles and miles already drains you of all energy, so it’s understandable that students want to have a day or two to settle and rest. 


“I flew in all the way from Alaska,” freshman Quinn Burpey says. “It was so tiring. And then I had to stay up ‘til midnight to do these mingling exercises. I was so beyond tired and just wanted to sleep.”  


Exhaustion plows into you like a train after all these back-to-back events: from chapel, to a drinking lecture, to mingling and sprinting across a football field. The lack of breaks made truly enjoying these experiences impossible due to the sleep deprivation. The intense schedule also created another negative: being overwhelmed.


Though I understand the point of this busy schedule was to combat homesickness from creeping in, it instead created a problem of feeling overwhelmed. There was no breathing room. There was no settling in. The second we got here, we only had two hours to unpack into our new lives before being shoved into the schedule. We were practically thrown at these new people, needing to show our lives on a platter until a leader says “switch!,” and we scrambled to uncomfortably speak to another group. Information was plastered before our eyes as we struggled to soak the words of the many speakers presented to us. Bolting from building to dorm room as we toiled to make it on time. All of this piled together for an entire week drove home the immense overflow of activities suffocating us. 


I truly appreciate the point of Orientation Week with helping make the new Braves feel less alone. However, major changes need to be made in order to make this a memorable week for all the right reasons.

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