Good OL Time
Orientation Leaders tell all to the Justice
Orientation is centered around welcoming incoming students to Brandeis, but for many current students, being an Orientation Leader is just as thrilling as beginning college. The Justice reached out to some of these OLs to give our readers a view into what their job is like and how these students shape our community. Here are some of those responses:
What’s the most challenging part of being an OL?
Melanie Rush ’20:
Unsurprisingly, the most challenging part about being an orientation leader is the pace. For two weeks we put our lives on hold, spending an extreme number of hours every day on either training, running events, and by the end of these two weeks, juggling classes as well. We sing and we dance and we put everything we’ve got into orientation, but that type of lifestyle isn’t sustainable beyond a two-week period.
What surprised you most about your interactions with the incoming class?
Shale Carey ’20:
Every time I meet first-years, I am reminded how enthusiastic and eager they can be. When people enter Brandeis, they are so ready to make friends and explore new things. It always makes me smile when a group member gets excited about an event or I see my group together after Orientation. They possess an openness that I hope Brandeis students can try to carry with them through all of college.
What made you want to be an OL?
Rebecca Orbach ’20:
When I was a first-year, my orientation was awkward and nerve-wracking. I didn’t click with anyone in my orientation group and my OL did not make me feel very welcomed or supported. I knew I wanted to become an OL to hopefully give my grouplets a very different orientation experience than I had. I knew that it would be challenging, but I wanted to do my best to make my grouplets feel not only prepared to enter into their new lives at Brandeis but also supported and cared for both during and long after orientation.
Should Brandeis pay OLs?
OLs do work long hours, and I don’t think community members are remiss in asking for compensation. That said, there are a lot of factors affecting this issue and I realize it might not be feasible in the near future. In an ideal world, it could be a goal, but for now, we may have to focus on congratulating and appreciating the student volunteers who are able and willing to keep Orientation going.
Brandeis should definitely pay OLs! I believe the topic has been broached internally within the University in some sort of context before, however it is something we need to keep fighting for. First, because Orientation Leaders are spending hours and hours of their time conducting physical, mental, and emotional labor and they deserve to be compensated for that time. Second, some students may not have the financial ability to commit two weeks of their lives to a full-time job without any payment, which ultimately creates an unfair threshold of privilege that then shapes the pool of students who have the opportunity to become an OL in the first place.
Were there times during the job when you got frustrated? Tell us about the struggles.
There will always be times when grouplets are not ready to have the discussion the OL wants to have or show up to the event the OL needs them to attend. On the student leader side, it’s hard to ensure 80 people are in the right place at the right time, and it’s not uncommon to pick up a job you weren’t scheduled for or stay at an event much later than anticipated. These things are hard to avoid, and part of being an OL is stepping up and handling these moments with as much grace, understanding and verve as possible.
Honestly, I don’t think there have been times I’ve been frustrated with this job. I’ve pushed myself to the limits of exhaustion, but that’s out of love, not frustration.
What did you enjoy most from your own orientation as a first-year?
I really loved all of the social events. Those were the times that I was able to begin building friendships, many of which have lasted through my years at Brandeis. These events gave me the opportunity to branch out and meet new people from outside my orientation group. Although the more serious daytime events were important in giving me the skills and resources I needed to succeed at Brandeis, the nighttime social events were when I really began to feel at home.
What’s something you wish you had been told about Brandeis before you started classes?
I wish I had known that it’s okay to not overcommit yourself. It can be hard when it seems like everyone around you is taking five classes and [is] in six clubs and works a part-time job, but that doesn’t have to be you. It’s important to join the things you care most about being a part of and skipping those that don’t feel like [are] a good fit. College is about finding your passions and whether that’s one or two or six different things, that’s okay.
I actually wish people had emphasized the importance of extracurriculars more. My OL didn’t dwell on them too much. It sounds so trite, but I think a lot of older students would agree that clubs are central to your Brandeis experience. Ask most upperclassmen and they can gush about a club that’s “full of their best friends” or “feels like a family.” I resonate with that more than anything and I really try to encourage first-years to try new things and find where their family lies. It might be somewhere unexpected, but your people are out there, and finding them is what will really make Brandeis feel like home.
What do you hope your grouplets take from Orientation?
Orientation is the time to settle in to Brandeis. I just want my grouplets to leave feeling comfortable. If they can find their classes, see a few familiar faces they met during Orientation, or feel more equipped because of an event they attended or a tip their OL gave, then we have successfully removed some of the doubt and fear from the first-year experience and made them feel safer post-Orientation.
I hope my grouplets make friends! There’s obviously a lot of really important information I want to them to internalize as well (be it what they’ve learned about healthy relationships and consent, how BEMCo works, what resources like Prevention Advocacy and Research Center or the Brandeis Counseling Center can help with) but more importantly, I want them to feel at home here. And Brandeis starts to feel like home when your friends become your family. I want every new student to leave Orientation having met at least one person they are excited to reach out to and get to know further, so they can start building their own community here.