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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

OLs learn to get down, among other skills

Published: September 2, 2011
Section: Features

OL Padraig Murphy ’10 hangs out with first-years at an Orientation event. <i>Photo by Ingrid Schulte/The Hoot</i>

In the American university system the first days of college are considered especially confusing. At Brandeis, the dedicated students who assist the first-years are members of an elite squad, known as the Orientation Leaders. These are their stories.

As a first-year I loved orientation: stumbling from one seemingly spontaneous event to the other, not really knowing where I was going, just following the stream of people. In my mind things went sort of like this: The orientation leaders were born knowing what was going on around campus and how to respond to the random, “Hey OLs, let me see you get down;” they casually suggested what we would do next, the same sort of way your friend might suggest getting Chinese for dinner; and we, the first-years, so freshly removed from the authority of our parents would bumble along after them. Little did I know that orientation is so elaborately planned that even the orientation leaders have an orientation.

Orientation training they call it. A camp for 19 and 20 year olds, like me, who haven’t quite let go of their five-year-old self.

Bright and early every morning, we’d warm up with more than an hour of ice-breaker games, ranging from the classics like “Ultimate Ninja” and “Move Your Butt” to new arrivals like the “Pterodactyl Game” and “Mini Tanks.” Though these usually started out mellow, by minute 45 the ninja-pros would be doing somersaults across the great lawn and the “WA” fanatics could be heard all the way in North Quad.

For the rest of the day, all 120 of us were put into orientation groups of our own, with veteran seniors as team leaders, and we’d spend the day reciting and perfecting the very same events that the first-years would enjoy only a week later. We learned about all the programs and opportunities available at Brandeis and spent hours trying to predict and diffuse every awkward situation, every troublemaker, every blooper. Essentially we got a chance to re-do our orientation, to pick up anything we missed. By Thursday, the night before International Move-In, we were ready for anything. As it turns out, even a hurricane.