Inside Camp Amherst: The Best and Worst of Orientation 2014 Part I

Confession: I have not been an Amherst student for a very long time. Four weeks, to be exact — I arrived on campus on the morning of August 24, heart filled to the brim with nervous expectation, a grin plastered on my face so I wouldn’t scare away any potential friends. Although I haven’t even had my first slice of Antonio’s yet, let alone experienced my first midterm, I do believe I’m well qualified to write about my experiences with orientation 2014 as part of the class of 2018.

I was thrown into activities and tours planned by the college the moment I arrived on campus. The parents’ welcome, the first squad meeting, and the presidential welcome ceremony kept my family busy shuffling to and from various events on the first day. However, by the third or fourth day the pace had slowed to a trickle of two or three required events per day, leaving us first-years with a lot of free time. Some spent it productively, going out on last-minute runs to Target or heading downtown to try some of the local cuisine. Others lounged about the common rooms, took extended walks on campus and generally sweated through the August heat. I enjoyed the freedom to do whatever we wanted, but the surplus of time eventually became a drag. Even those who tried to put their time to good use soon began using words like “boring” to describe the slow pace of orientation. Everyone wanted classes to start ­— after all, wasn’t that why we were here?
We all wanted some quality class time after three months of an academics-free summer. The college could have saved valuable money and time by condensing orientation into five or six days instead of nine.

Complaints aside, the emphasis placed on the grave issues of student health and sexual respect was a genuinely valuable dimension of orientation. I went to high school in Georgia, where abstinence-only sex education is the norm. For me, the SHE skits, Sexual Respect@Amherst and bystander intervention training revolutionized my understanding of sexual safety and respect. These were issues that I had only peeked at from the periphery. The candid honesty, delivered with a small dose of humor, was a breath of a fresh air and a huge punch of educational value. For first-years who grew up in sheltered households and/or attended conservative high schools, like me, this emphasis was both essential and helpful. Thanks to orientation, I’ve learned what to do in a wide variety of potentially dangerous situations that I would have otherwise fumbled through. As always, the adage “better to be safe than sorry” holds true.

Orientation functioned as a transitional period from the world of high school and home to an entirely different world nothing like I’ve experienced before. It may have shortcomings (which should be looked into), but I won’t deny that it prepared us for the four years ahead. Classes are gearing into full speed, extracurriculars are picking up, and the class of 2018 is more than ready.