This weekend, I had the pleasure of being an TAMS Summer Orientation Leader for the incoming Junior class. Organized by the TAMS Student Life Staff, the Orientation weekend was filled with meeting new people, and reconnecting with people I haven't seen since school ended in May.
The orientation started Friday at noon when all the Orientation Leaders (OLs) came together and discussed the plans for what we would do once the Juniors show up. We practiced playing games that would be ice breakers for the juniors, we broke out into teams of 3 and created our own team names and chants (I was a part of "team 13 so fresh, so clean" with Wesley Miaw and Annie He), and we set up McConnell Hall to make it easiest for the juniors and their parents to check in and get around.
After the juniors were checked in by an OL, some of the other OLs led them to their rooms and helped them get situated at McConnell: their soon-to-be home for 9 months beginning in the fall. Then, the seminars began. The students along with their parents were greeted by the Dean, Glenisson de Oliviera, the Director of Student Life, Russ Stukel, and the Academic Counselors, Wendy Boyd-Brown and Sam Earls. After listening to the introduction from the Administration and the rundown of what TAMS will be like, the students left their parents to join the OLs, Hall Directors, and Assistant Director of Student Life to find out what they would be doing for the rest of the weekend. The students were divided into groups of about fifteen kids and assigned to three OLs who would serve as their guides for the weekend.
Each small group split up and went to their own spot somewhere on the UNT campus. Wesley, Annie, and I had the kids play some of the most challenging games to get to know one another. The most memorable game was called Awkward Elephant, a game where the juniors would line up and stick their left hand between their own legs and grab the right hand of the person behind him or her, who is extending his/her right hand forward. With the juniors in such an uncomfortable position, we decided to make them move around as a unit to "encourage camaraderie". In the end, it was a successful ice breaking experience because almost everyone in the group knew the other juniors' names. This was the perfect transition to Roommate Rumble.
Roommate Rumble is a activity for students to talk to other members with similar living habits and find "the perfect roommate". By the time we were done with the pairings, it seemed that almost every student had found themselves a roommate for the fall. These students were becoming closer than I could have ever imagined. The juniors took their new closeness to the recreation center where they were allowed to hang out in for about an hour. With basketball and ultimate frisbee games happening on the same court, ping pong tournaments creating mini rivalries among teams, and board games laid out over all of the spare tables, the juniors were having the time of their lives!
We ended the juniors' nights with a wing meeting, explaining how the following day would play out. The students had to take their placement exams for chemistry and math, so we told them that we wanted them to get a good night's rest. Little did they know, the OLs would have an extended curfew that gave us the ability to go to Walmart, or Jack-In-The-Box, or even the OLs' own apartments on campus (as long as we were back in the hall by 1am). To top it all off, once we did get back, we just shared stories with one another until 4 in the morning. We knew what we were getting ourselves into: we would have to wake up all the juniors and send them to breakfast in 3 hours. We didn't mind.
The following morning, we woke up at 6:30am and, hoping that the juniors were at least well rested, got ready to wake up the juniors and take them to breakfast. We sat with them and discussed the joys of waking up and eating a plateful of sub-par cafeteria food before going to class.They then went to go take their math and chemistry placement exams. During this time, some OLs took a nap, some OLs just hung out at McConnell, and the rest of us went to the mall. We didn't have enough time to buy anything, but we went anyway. We headed back to pick up the students from their testing center and take them to lunch and then "Mock Semester", an activity that introduces the students to the various aspects of living at McConnell Hall during the school year ranging from academics to student life to personal hygiene.
The day came to an end with the juniors getting their textbooks and their summer assignments. They were lined up around McConnell Hall as though they were getting the new iPhone on its release date, These kids, who were uncomfortable just 24 hours before, had the biggest smiles on their faces. No kid in that line was left out of a conversation; everyone was talking with one another! For kids who probably didn't know a single person, they looked as though they'd known each other forever. The Student Life Staff's and the OL's primary goal for Summer O was to have each student have a personal connection with at least one other junior. I'm proud to say the students had exceeded our expectations!
The juniors were incredibly excited for the coming school year, and I'm glad to say that, as an Orientation Leader, I was able to help instill that excitement. Here's to a fantastic school year! Class of 2017, welcome to TAMS!