Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The Road to Orientation: A Volunteer's Tale

By Kate


Photo provided by Orientation
“When I was in first year, I didn’t get involved. I didn’t really talk to anyone in my classes, and I specifically chose classes with people I went to high school with,” admits Erin Taskey.
Erin’s reflection rings true for most first-year students.  “I was really intimidated by the university,” she explains.  Flash forward four years, and if you happen to stumble across this fourth-year Arts student, she’ll probably be surrounded by friends, their tables pushed together, with her laughter punctuating the centre of the group.

So, what changed things for Erin? The answer is simple: Orientation.

“The first moment that everyone gets their candles, and you look around at all of the other first years, it’s really nice — a little unity moment. Doing an Arts cheer, you don’t know each other, but you feel like you’re already part of the school, although school hasn’t started yet,” she says.
By watching the volunteers who led her that first year, Erin started to feel inspired. “They looked like they were having such a great time. They all seemed to be bonding and building friendship among themselves. I wanted to do that for myself,” she says.

Photo provided by Orientation

Although she didn’t really get involved on campus until February, when Orientation began to recruit new volunteers, the wait proved to be well worth it. As an Orientation volunteer, Erin has been trained on the ins and outs of leading a group of new U of A students, has attended team-building events (including water fights and BBQ’s), and has helped new students settle into the campus community.

She has watched her former delegates (first year students) move on to lead clubs, excel in schoolwork, and has even seen them become Orientation volunteers themselves. Now in her fourth year, Erin is one of the senior volunteers who are responsible for helping to recruit, train, and empower new volunteers.

Photo provided by Orientation

Although it is a volunteer position, for Erin, Orientation’s rewards have been manifold, including a community of friends and the ability to pass on knowledge to other students.

“The people that volunteer for Orientation are generally really happy people. They want to be there, and they want to help total strangers. So I’ve kind of become like that in my normal everyday life, where you can just talk to people in class and not really worry about not knowing them,” she explains.

Photo provided by Orientation

In addition to growing into a more outgoing person, Erin gained valuable skills that she can carry with her once she leaves the U of A. In particular, she mentions that the hectic month of interviewing and selecting new volunteers has whipped her organizational skills into shape.
“Last year, I took a month off work because I didn’t want to be overwhelmed. But Orientation showed me it’s all about proportion. Having those activities is not a waste of time. You grow social skills, you grow leadership skills, and — considering March was a Gong Show — organization skills,” she smiled. “I wouldn’t have learned any of that if I didn’t get involved.”
What started out as a small step to connect for Erin has turned into something that has made a huge difference in her university experience — from making valuable friendships to becoming more confident on campus. She'll be sad once it's over, but the perfect wrap-up to her volunteer career, Erin says, will be watching the newest group of volunteers carry on the positive energy of Orientation.

“I want to just stand in Quad and watch all of them with their groups exuding the same amount of energy and getting all hyped-up as [I was] my first year.”

Photo provided by Orientation

Erin had an amazing experience with Orientation, but how about you? Leave a favourite memory or two in the comments section to let us know what your favourite part about Orientation was.

New to the U of A? What are you hoping to get out of Orientation? We want to hear from you! 
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2 comments

  1. Nice concept.Thanks for sharing

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  2. The candle light ceremony makes the late promenade to Hawrelack Park worth all the effort! I can think of no better way to begin the University year then to wave a flickering flame of knowledge amidst a mob of other enthusiastic Undergraduate students! It's more than a commemoration to the joy of education, it's a tribute to our extraordinary privilege to learn :)

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