It’s plain and very simple. Being a 2014 Orientation Leader has thus far been the greatest experience of my life. I didn’t expect this. I expected to have been fortunate enough to be hired to wave foam fingers in people’s faces. I thought I was getting paid to be (borderline obnoxiously) energetic about UD.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Being an OL was the most transformative, unparalleled and beautiful experience I have ever had and I was fortunate enough to do it with 21 incredible student leaders by my side. It was exhausting, but worth it, frightening, but challenging, and a yearlong journey, but over in a blink. Here are the top 5 things I learned throughout my time as an OL.
5. Orientation Leaders can have the same effect on each other that coffee does. We were up every morning at 5am. That’s right. At Trabant by 6:15. We had a morning meeting, we had our ritual pump-up chant and then we ate breakfast. By 7:15 we were expected to be in “Orientation Mode.” That would be: smiles on, energy way up, and ready to literally dance outside as a way to greet the students and families. A common question we got was, “How much coffee did you drink this morning?” The answer was always, “None. This is just our job.” Being surrounded by the OL’s created perpetual energy. We all fed off of each other and it never ran out. When one of us was slightly down, someone would swoop in and pick them back up. As a whole, we were a well-oiled machine crafted to create energy.
4. There’s something called the Fishbowl Effect. When you take on a leadership role (especially one where you meet all 4,000 incoming freshman), you are surrendering yourself to the Fishbowl Effect. This is the effect of everyone in the room watching you, even when you think no one is. The OL’s wear bright gold polo’s, so you really can’t miss us. We had to be aware that probably at any given moment, there was at least one pair of eyes on us. Those could be the eyes of our fellow Leaders, a student, or maybe a parent. Embracing the Fishbowl Effect has had a lasting impression on me. I’m now more aware of my everyday actions, like what I post on social media or how I express my opinions. The fun thing about being an OL is that we knew this, so we wanted all eyes on us so we could represent UD the best way we could.
3. There are a lot of meals you can make with chicken. After our first two weeks of training, we were left on our own for dinner. This was the first time I had to truly cook meals for myself. It’s pretty simple: Go on Pintrest. Bake at 350. Add asparagus or something.
2. Other people share your thoughts, and even your fears. We had this amazing thing called Retreat. You may have been on one before. What I learned at the OL retreat is that I am not alone, and therefore, neither is anyone else. I was able to share stories with my team because I knew they could identify with me. Some people told me they were feeling the same way I did, for example, about the pressures of being a leader. This was one of the first times I expressed some feelings I had with a group of people and what I have taken away from it is that I’ll never be afraid to share feelings again. There are people who are feeling the same way you are. It sounds cliché, but you truly will never know you are not alone until you consciously choose not to be. I was so pleasantly surprised by the responses I got and it truly changed my life.
5. Trust the process. This would probably be the most important thing I learned during my time as an OL. I used to find myself thinking about the third step before I even completed the first, resulting only in me being overwhelmed. Worry only about the first thing you need to complete and then progress from there. You don’t always need to know the end result. If people you trust surround you, then trust that what you are doing will turn out the way it is meant to. Trust your co-workers, trust your instincts.
Sydney Scheiner is a junior, Interpersonal Communications Major from Old Bridge, NJ. She is one of the Student Coordinators for the Office of New Student Orientation, a Blue Hen Ambassador and also serves as the Program Director for the University of Delaware Chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America. She loves anything related to coffee or music.