September 13, 2012 by Aaron Barksdale
I have worked in W&M’s New Student Orientation program for the last three years: twice as Orientation Area Director (OAD), once as a Transfer Orientation Aide (TOA), and once as a Freshmen Orientation Aide (FOA). After participating in an Orientation program each semester since my freshman year, I’m surprised that it always seems new and exciting. The excitement is really a response from new students, freshmen and transfers, their families, and their OA’s. My experience at William & Mary has been amazing because of the relationships I’ve formed with a diverse set of students and staff.
I have gained a greater appreciation for this institution from working in the New Student Orientation program and in the Dean of Students office. As an Orientation Area Director I, along with nine other OADs, was responsible for setting a good example for the Orientation Aides who worked under me. As a previous Orientation Aide I understood the weight of their role and the responsibilities that they have to shoulder. In addition, I communicated formally and informally with students and family members, as well as college faculty members and staff.
Thinking back to my own Orientation experience as a freshman nearly four years ago I remember the grueling heat of Williamsburg in August. Accompanied by parents and the student volunteers on Move-in Day, I entered the Botetourt Complex (Nicholson Hall 217), and set my things down in my new room. I was greeted by the smiling faces of the two students who would be my Orientation Aides (OAs): Benton and Carmen. They were involved in a wide array of activities on campus, and they each were excited to share their love of college with students on our freshman hall. I can recall our OAs rallying us across campus to awkward mixers with people we had never met before. Large meals in the dining halls (the Caf), programs about the values of the institution, and then registration were some of the many events I remember being packed into the long week.
However, when the program was finished, what resonated the most was the enthusiasm of the student leaders and the program’s strength in establishing those life-long bonds with the College that I can look back on and laugh. It was these bonds that encouraged me to apply to become an OA and continue sharing that experience with other members of the Tribe.
Likewise, that same motivation inspired me to become an OAD and assist in the new student transition to life at W&M in another capacity. Now that I have completed my last Orientation program, I’m left with nostalgic memories, and a bit of jealously for the newest members of Tribe who are set for the best four years of their life. Congratulations once again 2016!