From what I’ve heard and read from older students, it seems as if people can’t complain enough about Welcome Week. Even though some admit to having fun at certain events or meeting a couple close friends,
the general consensus seems to be that Wildcat Welcome is something new students just have to suffer through: it’s awkward, it’s busy, and you don’t really make many life-long friends doing it.
While these are all legitimate faults of the program, they don’t constitute the entirety of it. The orientation overall does a good job of transitioning students into Northwestern.
Let’s first look at how other schools do it. I remember hearing from fellow high school graduates over the summer that their orientations were spread sporadically throughout the summer. In other words, students experienced interrupted vacations where they had to travel to their school with only part of the incoming class, and then return home for several weeks before entering the school year.
And other schools that had orientation right before the school year, like us, usually only scheduled a few days of programming before throwing students into the school year.
In short, we should all appreciate the efforts put forth by Northwestern to create an enjoyable and effective Welcome Week. Having it right before fall classes start allows us to spend time on campus with our entire incoming class (and transfers), slowly getting used to Northwestern before starting the academic school year. And instead of starting that school year right away, we get a whole week to adjust to a new campus, new people, and a new living space.
We have a good balance between fun and serious activities, which take up a lot of time but get us to focus on our time at NU instead of missing home or worrying about other aspects of the upcoming school year.
For those unfamiliar with Wildcat Welcome’s schedule, we stay rather busy running from one event to another: going to Millienium Park for ice-breakers and a mini-tour of the city, participating in the tradition “March Through the Arch” (which is exactly what its title describes), attending student activities such as an A capella concert and men’s soccer game, riding roller-coasters at Six Flags, shopping at Target, and eating with our PA groups: a group of about fifteen new students lead by an upperclassman. We also attend meetings and presentations about life at Northwestern: we discuss our fall schedules with our Freshmen advisors and attend Essential NU’s (ENUs) on important topics such as alcohol, diversity, sex, and mental health.
I don’t know about you, but that jam-packed schedule sounds really exciting. We should all be appreciative that Northwestern plans so many activities in order to ease our transition into college by introducing us to necessary topics while also making sure we enjoy ourselves and make new friends.
Of course, this is not to say that everything about orientation week was perfect.
Yes, it would have been nice to have more time to socialize with those outside of our PA group (especially with the people in our dorm). Yes, the alcohol EDU probably made students take the issue of alcohol even less seriously because it embodied everything teachers tell us not to do in a presentation: reading directly off of slides. Yes, all of the programming throughout the day was a little overwhelming and most likely the cause of so many students getting sick.
But instead of complaining about what wasn’t perfect about it, let’s take a moment and realize how fortunate we are to attend a university so concerned about our transition into becoming full-time Wildcats.
I sure am grateful. I write this during my third week of classes, and I definitely think that Welcome Week has had a significant impact on my Northwestern experience thus far.
First, my PA group. I know I’m biased, but I definitely lucked out when it came to my PA (shout out to my girl, Rocio!). She did a fantastic job of leading our small group and helping us with the transition process. I really feel like I could ask her anything, whether it be about Northwestern or a personal matter, and I’m glad to have met someone like that upon my arrival at campus.
Also, it’s relieving to have a set of familiar faces either when I’m walking around campus or in my seminar (which is filled with people from my PA group). While we’re not all best friends, we all shared the same experience of going through Wildcat Welcome together, which serves as a connection point between all of us.
Additionally, all of the scheduling during Welcome Week has encouraged me to continue to try new activities on campus, which might include a club I never thought I would want to try. Having us experience a wide range of events within such a short period of time, with all of us in the same boat of feeling unfamiliarity and nervousness, has helped motivate me to push myself out of my comfort zone.
Speaking of things outside of my comfort zone, a main part of our time in Millennium Park was spent learning the “New Student Dance” to the song “Rather Be” by Clean Bandit. I am not a dancer. For whatever reason, I was not blessed with the ability to dance, and would not be surprised if that was obvious during our practices in the park. But I had a great time doing it, and felt that the dance — as silly as it may be — helped bring the new students together because it was something we all participated in, some more than others. Not only was it fun, but it also reminded me how something I might not usually do can sometimes turn into something I really enjoy.
This busy week also helped students focus on Northwestern instead of missing home. While I live only fifteen minutes away and return home multiple times a week, adjusting to college life has still proved rather challenging. But having so many great experiences from my first week on campus, along with the knowledge that I will have many more over the next four years, has already made me feel part of the Wildcat family.