O-Week: Love it or hate it, remember that it’s fleeting

Orientation week, O-week, best week of my life, worst week of my life — whatever you choose to call it — can be an intimidating and frightening experience. It’s the first week of college as an incoming freshman and you are most likely by yourself, lonely and unsure if you made the right decision to come here. You are tossed into a large, seemingly uninviting environment and it may very well appear like the end of the world is rapidly approaching. 

Does it sound like I’m describing your expectations for — or experience with — orientation week? Well, I’m actually describing myself during orientation week. During this “grand” seven days, I made no friends, felt dejected and generally had a miserable time. Orientation week was one of the worst weeks of my life and still holds that title to this day. But since then I’ve learned that the assortment of functions in the seven days following move-in is by no means representative of the college experience as whole. 

The discontent I felt during orientation was fleeting and only lasted the duration of this unhappy week. Things turned around, and I can tell you now that orientation week isn’t like the rest college.

It’s more like summer camp.

Throughout the week itself, the University hosts a multitude of social events and other various activities to facilitate class bonding and prepare you for how things will run in college.

Social activities, such as bingo, karaoke and Monte Carlo game night are more awkward than they sound. They also tend to consist of a mess of screaming, enthusiastic students. 

But that’s not to say that everything else this week will follow suit. Other than winning bingo prizes, you will also have the opportunity to tour some of the better features of Pittsburgh, such as the fantastic local museums or the Heinz Memorial Chapel. Or, better yet, you’ll have the opportunity to go and explore the city yourself.

In addition to all of this, there are a slew of informational events. From a presentation on financial aid to the cliched “Your Leadership Journey,” you can find an informational event on anything you could want to know about Pitt. 

Finally, there is a freshman class-wide orientation meeting and mandatory convocation on alcohol and its dangers.

It’s a lot to take in.

You will be whisked from event to event without enough time to catch your breath. Pounded with stimuli on all sides, it’s difficult to remember where you were the previous day, let alone all the how-to’s you’ll learn from the informational sessions. 

But I want to point out that everyone has a different experience during orientation. 

You could actually find yourself perfectly at home at O-week, comfortable and confident in your new, rapidly changing environment. If so, then good for you, I applaud your tenacity at succeeding in new settings. 

In my own experience, though, orientation week was not a pleasant period of time. 

Now, I don’t mean to frighten you. I just want to guide you along this new experience and inform you of the things that I wish I knew before entering my orientation week.

First, the friends you make during orientation week will not be the friends you keep for the rest of your college career. 

I started orientation week starry-eyed and excessively eager in an attempt to make new friends and acquaintances. I tried to create meaningful relationships that would last a lifetime and connect with my peers on a deeper level than I ever could have in high school. 

Suffice it to say, I failed miserably. Everyone else is trying to make friends, just like you, and, unfortunately, it creates a conglomerate of insincere attempts at cultivating genuine relationships. From striking up random conversations to religiously attending every social event the University hosts, it seems as if everyone’s competing to make 10 new a friends a day and if you don’t, you lose at life.

Incoming students cling to too many connections that are just deep enough to survive the week, yet not deep enough to endure the rest of college. You’ll quickly learn as time passes that those familiar faces during orientation week will quickly fade until you can’t even remember their names. 

My advice? Just roll with it, and enjoy the weeklong friends. You’ll make your real friends later in the clubs and activities you participate in.

And remember: Your orientation week will not define the rest of your college career. 

Even if you end up making no friends and you do have an unhappy time — much like my own — the rest of college won’t reflect the disappointment. I promise you that. Although it may be a rough seven days, you have so many more days to turn that poor experience around. 

The atmosphere and bustle you experience during orientation week is only tentative. Afterward, everything is less frantic, and people become more relaxed. The urge to become friends with every breathing human is gone, and this is when college really begins.

The same goes for the opposite end of the spectrum, too. Just because you are on top of the world and everything goes your way, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll rock the rest of college. Orientation is fleeting and you’ll soon find that the majority of those friends you made during this week won’t remember your face when classes start and everyone’s priorities become real. 

As I and many others will certainly tell you, this one week doesn’t define you as a person or as a student. You only get one orientation week, so take it for what it is. It will inevitably have its moments of happiness and despair, and it may seem representative of the entire college experience. 

But remember: the upcoming eight months of your life will be some of the best you have ever experienced. So for your own sake, don’t let one week determine the rest of your college career. 

Write Brian at [email protected]