I was so nervous the night before orientation that I barely slept. I understood that, rationally, my two days of Belmont orientation would not define the next four years of my life. However, I couldn’t help but lie in bed that night thinking, “This is the start of the next chapter of my life.”
I toiled for far too long over what outfits to wear, as I wanted to make a good first impression. I thought through a million ways people would judge me, and how I would introduce myself to all the other students. I tried to pretend to be calm, cool and aloof. I don’t think I fooled anyone. I was freaking out.
I begged my mom through my teeth not to try to make friends for me as we pulled up to the circle in front of Patton Hall. So naturally, the first thing she did when we got out of our clunky rental car was start introducing me to all the girls within hearing distance. I know it sounds silly, but I was mortified, thinking that everyone would instantly judge me for my pushy mother.
The truth is, everyone is a little embarrassed of their parents when they come to college. That’s part of growing up. And I realized, after a fair amount of moping, that my mom’s insistence on pushing me into social interactions was truly a gesture of love. She wanted me to succeed as much as I wanted to and couldn’t help trying to give me a hand. I know it’s awkward to meet people with your parents around, but everyone is looking for any excuse to make new friends. Most people will just be glad to have someone to talk to for a few minutes, so don’t worry.
Once my parents were gone, I remember feeling a lot of pressure to meet my best friends right off the bat, making me feel like I had to be more outgoing than I really am. But the only people I met at orientation that I am still friends with are the people I didn’t try to impress. The only long-term connections I made during those two days honestly happened because I gave up my pretenses and just tried to be myself.
I met my future suitemate, and we laughed about how awkward we both were at fiesta and how neither of us had known what bedding to bring. We both just wanted someone else to admit they were uncomfortable.
Similarly, when I met the girl with whom I would be spending the night of orientation with, I was worried. I had seen on Facebook that she was far more religious than I, and I worried that she would judge me or that we wouldn’t get along. I am willing to admit that this was certainly an unfair judgment on my end.
Once I let go of my assumptions, we ended up staying awake for hours sharing secrets, dreams and stories. When we came back to Belmont in the fall, we ended up pledging the same sorority and staying friends far beyond freshman year.
Social media is fun, but a horrible way to meet new people. I know it’s tempting to stalk everyone you meet on social media, but try to put your phone away and just get to know people for who they are. I promise it will pay off.
Orientation is scary for everyone, so don’t expect it to be more than what it really is — just a tiny sliver of the four years to come. I’ve known people who loved orientation but really struggled freshman year, and people who thought orientation went terribly but had a great first semester.
It’s a great way to meet some new people, answer questions and help ease your nerves about move-in, but it doesn’t need to be anything more than that.
So make friends with the orientation council — they aren’t intimidating and just want to support you. Introduce yourself to the cafeteria employees. Say hi to people you think are hotter than you. Let your parents be proud of you even if it’s embarrassing. Dance at fiesta you’re into that. If fiesta is a social nightmare for you and you just want to watch from the sidelines, that’s okay too.
At the end of orientation, you should ideally go home with a fall schedule planned and hopefully a new friend or two. But, if nothing else, all I ask is that you go home knowing you put yourself out there authentically and tried your best to enjoy it. After all, isn’t that really what the next four years is about?