My Favorite Memories at FUS: An Orientation Week Like No Other

"So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us" -J.R.R. Tolkien, English Writer, Poet, Philologist, and Academic.

This picture is taken from my first orientation trip to Valle Verzasca in 2017! I actually cannot see myself anywhere πŸ˜‚ I remember being on the left side of the bridge (right side of the photo), but it's very possible that I'm not in the photo. We were the largest new group of students in recent years, and so we all could not actually fit on the bridge, so some of us were more on the side and I guess I was part of that group πŸ˜‚ I also remembered we got yelled at for clogging up all the space on the bridge and people were trying to cross, fun times :D

Welcome back or welcome to Adventures at Franklin! People often say that you can only appreciate the magnitude of an experience until it's over. I think a big reason why this is often the case is because people do not take the time to reflect on everything that has transpired until that experience is over. One reason why I wanted to write for Adventures at Franklin was to share my stories and my voice to the current and future Franklin University Switzerland (FUS) community, but also personally to reflect on my experiences so I may continue to appreciate the time I still have left at FUS. I am about to enter my last semester at FUS, and so with the time I have left, I want to reflect on some of my favorite memories, starting off where it all began, orientation week. Currently we are going through the COVID-19 pandemic, and there isn't much of an orientation week this year sadly, but hopefully orientation week will return next year :)

I actually have been fortunate to have been a part of orientation 3 times, once as a freshman and twice as an Academic Mentor (AM).  I love orientation week because it marks the start of something new, something exciting, and things are always happening. I wanted to shout out the first post about orientation on this blog, written by the creator, Jessica, in 2013. 

She writes: "Seriously! How many incoming college freshmen can say that as part of their orientation they went hiking in the Swiss mountainside, jumped into a glacial river, explored castles and ate copious amounts of delicious fondue/gelato/pizza? It just doesn't get much better than this". Full post available: here

I completely agree with her and here are some of my favorite memories from my 3 orientations weeks.

Fun fact, as of this post (22 August 2020), it is 3 years to the day that my first orientation experience began. To sum up my first orientation as a new student: so much fun, but also very hectic.

My first 2 days, there was so much going on, so much to take in, and also so much to figure out. I was so excited to finally start my new adventure, so excited to find out which dorm I was going to live in, and so excited to meet some people I had been messaging over the summer. In fact, I remember I barely slept during the first night I spent in my dorm. It might have been partly due to the crazy heat and humidity, or maybe I had not adjusted to my new bed yet, but I think it was mainly due to excitement. I managed to make it through the next day but it was such a hectic day. We had orientation group meetings, campus tours, meetings for permits/insurance, writing and math placement tests, Taste of Switzerland dinner, residence hall meetings. I slept real good that night out of pure exhaustion.

The next 2 days also flew by. Some of the things that I remember very clearly are the meetings with my first year seminar (FYS) group, meeting with my Academic Advisor and AM, course registration, walking to IKEA instead of taking the bus with the group (because I wanted to be different πŸ˜‚ no it was actually because IKEA is only 40 mins away from campus and I wanted to explore the area around campus), and going to Blues to Bop (Jazz Festival, sadly not happening in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions).

The next day was the traditional trip to Valle Verzasca. Valle Verzasca is a valley in Ticino, about an hour away from campus. The river, Verzasca, runs through the valley, and it is a popular tourist attraction in Ticino. People come to swim in the rivers, hike the trails, admire preserved architecture, and it is one of the prettiest places I have ever been to. 

This photo above is from Sonogno, which is a municipality in Valle Verzasca. On the trip, we usually stop here first to do a short hike/walk to a nearby waterfall, where we have lunch. The water was very cold, so I did not swim but there were plenty of others who did.   

The next stop is the Ponte dei Salti, which is the photo above. We take the classic photo on the bridge (which is at the start of this post), and people swim in the water, which is pretty much crystal clear. I did get in the water here. It's a FUS initiation of sorts to jump off the rock next the bridge. Jumping off the bridge isn't allowed for FUS students, but some other tourists may do it. I remember jumping off the rock, and although it's not a high jump, I remember the fall was just long enough to where I could think about what I had just done. After jumping, I remember thinking: okay don't fall on your face... oh this is a longer jump than I thought. And then I hit the water πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ Not everyone jumps off the rock, but I think it's a fun thing to do, and it's also fun to say that you've done it ;)

And that was pretty much my first orientation week done. The day after Valle Verzasca was a free day, and the day before classes started. I remember playing some board games with my friends and just getting ready for classes. 

The only regret I had from my first orientation was that I was so focused on my new life, I neglected my parents too much. My parents came with me to Lugano, and I did not spend too much time with them. I know they wanted me to go and start my new adventure, but I should have also spent more time with them. Having said that, the university experience also made me appreciate my parents a lot more than I had before, so I guess pushing them to the side for orientation week was just part of the growing pain.

Year 2 orientation week, I was on the other side of things as a mentor. Out of my 3 years, I'd rank year 2's orientation as the best one for a couple reasons. 1, I enjoyed being a mentor more than being a new student. Although the experience as a new student is fun, it is very hectic and new students are stuffed with so much information about classes and life at FUS in such a little time. As a mentor, we already know how things at FUS work, so I could instead focus on helping out wherever I was needed. Furthermore as an AM, my schedule was relatively flexible. I did need to be somewhere every now and now (AMs are in charge of the placement tests, giving tours to parents, helping with course registration and FYS meetings), but for the most part I was able to float around, help out where I was needed, and meet new people. 

Reason 2 is that the AM team that year, and orientation team as a whole (also made up of Resident Assistants and Orientation Mentors) had a really good rapport. Particularly among the AM team, we all hung out with each other, got to know each other, played games with each other, ate together etc. There was just really good energy, and it showed because half of the AM team returned for the year after. It was a really fun orientation week, and a huge reason why was because the people I were around were great.

For some reason that year, there was an emphasis on videos. So there are a few videos from orientation 2018. Here is a montage of all the different parts of orientation.

  

And here is the video introducing the 2018 AM team ! Yes I am in this video πŸ˜‚

 

My big regret from orientation 2018 was that I didn't get to go to Verzasca. I really wanted to go, but there wasn't enough space on the buses so I had to stay behind, so it wasn't really in my hands :( In hindsight, the weather wasn't great that year so it wasn't all bad that I didn't get to go. I don't think I would have changed anything else from that year's orientation week.

 Year 3, orientation as an AM part 2! I was so happy to get to come back as an AM for the 2nd year. This orientation was so much fun as well because I knew exactly what to expect. I had been through orientation twice, once as a student and once as a mentor, and there was nothing that was going to happen that would surprise me. And yeah, that's pretty much what happened. 

I floated around again when my schedule was flexible, the big difference was that in previous years, orientation felt like such a hectic time and things were happening all the time, but for my third year it almost felt boring at times. It might just be that it was my third time going through orientation so it might have felt normalized, but I think another reason why was because there were fewer students (almost 25% fewer) than in recent years, and more people on the orientation team than in recent years. That meant that I had a lot more time off because I really did not have a lot to do sometimes. Yes it's nice to get a break during the hectic time at orientation, but one of my favorite things about orientation is having things to do and moving from place to place. 

My first 2 years, I was barely ever in my dorm room during the day. My third year, I spent a good amount of time in my room during some days because I wasn't needed anywhere. My third year, I remember just sitting around talking to my friends, while waiting for new students to arrive so we could show them to their dorms, but because there were fewer students, we ended up waiting a lot longer than the previous year. I also didn't give a tour to parents this year because there were more AMs than the prior year, and fewer parents. 

Another reason why orientation 2018 was more enjoyable for me than orientation 2019 was because the orientation team for 2019 was much more cliquey and segmented than the prior year. People had their own friend groups so there was very little mixing, we didn't really eat together, or play games together as much. Especially among the AM team, we didn't do as many things together. 

However overall, I personally don't have any regrets. I knew going into that orientation 2019 that it was probably my last dance at FUS orientation. I did not anticipate a pandemic preventing a proper orientation week in 2020, but I did know that going into Fall 2020 I'd be in my last semester at FUS, and probably would not be involved with orientation for a 4th time. A part of me wishes I were involved, and writing for Adventures at Franklin about my experiences is almost my small way of being involved with new students. However, a part of me also knows when the time comes to move on and let the next generation handle things, and that time is now.

So with that mindset, I came into orientation 2019 wanting to make the most of every moment and I think I did. I really enjoyed everything I did during orientation 2019, from showing new students to their dorms, to meeting with my FYS, helping my mentees select classes, communicating with my professor I was mentoring for, hanging out with the orientation team when I could, hanging out with my roommates, walking to IKEA (again!) and going Valle Verzasca (yes I went that year!). I have no regrets from my last FUS orientation experience, and I'm very happy with that.

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I wanted to conclude this post with my checklist of some things to do during orientation week to make the most out of the experience.

As a new student....

  • Walk downtown and explore! And get some gelato if you want to! There are lots of fun things to see and do.
  • While you are walking down, take a sip of water from the Capuchin fountain along Via Ponte Tresa (there's an FUS saying that if you don't drink from it, you will fail your midterms. So drink from it and pass your midterms).
  • However, take the bus back up to campus! The walk down is very nice with gorgeous views. The walk up is very doable as well, but given the heat/humidity, and the fact that it's not super steep but certainly not flat, I prefer the bus. Plus, it is a good thing to get an idea of which bus gets you back to campus, where to find it etc.
  • Attend the meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided) on campus. My logic is simple. As a new student, your account has already been charged for the meals during orientation, regardless if you eat or not. So eat, and make the most of your money. It's also a great chance to meet and talk to new people.
  • Go to Valle Verzasca and take the leap! Valle Verzasca is one of the highlights of the week, and an FUS tradition :D 
  • Go on the IKEA trip. Although this hasn't been going on as long as the Valle Verzasca trip or the Capuchin fountain drinking, I think this is also a tradition of FUS orientation week. Not only does FUS take you there via buses (for free), not only can you get things for your dorm, but it's also a chance to meet and bond with other people too. 
  • Go to the freestuff sale/giveaway. This is a newer thing happening at orientation. I've written a bit about it in my post about how to save money (right here). The gist is that you can find useful things i.e. extension chords, kitchen stuff, cleaning supplies at the free stuff sale/giveaway, and as the name implies, it is free!
  • Don't forget the people who got you to where you are. Call or talk to your family. Call or talk to your friends from home. They want to know about your new experiences as well. Although yes everything is new and exciting for you, don't forget how you got there and who helped you along your way :)
  • Be open to things but you don't have to do it all during orientation week. If someone asks you to hang out, sure go for it! Someone asks you to go grocery shopping with them, sure do it! But you don't have to do everything if you don't want to. You have the entire semester and maybe even longer to find your footing and experience life at FUS.

As a mentor...

  • Let's get the clichΓ©s out of the way: be friendly, helpful, open minded etc.
  • Get to know your mentees during orientation week. If you get to know your mentees, they will open up more to you which will help you do your job better. Take the time to get to know them and it will make the experience so much more rewarding.
  •  Get to know your team. Whether it's AM, OM, or RA, the experience is so much more rewarding if there is good team chemistry and you have fun with each other. This also includes getting to know whoever is in charge. For an AM, that might mean your professor, or whoever leads training.
  • Attend the meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided) on campus. My logic is simple. As a mentor, this is free food, take advantage of it!
  • Go to as many things are you can. As an AM, I didn't need to go to the first welcome with all the students, but I did and I'm so happy to have been able to. As an AM, I didn't need to go to Valle Verzasca or IKEA, but I am so glad I did. Just make the most out of the experience. You might get the opportunity to go through orientation again, but nothing is certain so take advantage of the situation while you can :)
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Overall, I love FUS orientation week. I love that it marks the start of new and exciting things. My first year, it was so hectic and exciting, but it may have been a bit too crazy. My second year, it was a great balance of busy and fun. My third year, it was much less intense than my first 2 years, maybe even "too chill". Nonetheless, I have fully enjoyed every orientation I was involved in. FUS has an orientation week like no other. 

A presto,

Asa

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