New student orientation leads to friendships, prepares freshmen

New students look at campus maps to navigate campus during New Student Orientation. (Gabriel Mayberry/BYU Photo)

Thousands of students flooded campus Aug. 29 for the beginning of fall semester’s New Student Orientation. Y-Group leaders led groups of students through campus from Aug. 29-31 and helped them navigate campus and differentiate between tricky building initialisms like JKB, JSB and JFSB.

But orientation was not simply about helping incoming freshman and transfer students navigate campus — something emphasized in the handbook given to each Y-Group leader before orientation. The handbook states that the focus of New Student Orientation is to introduce students to the “academic opportunities, spiritual enlightenment, and social atmosphere of BYU.”

Matthew Nelson, a freshman studying exercise science, commented on the social atmosphere he experienced at New Student Orientation.

“The social environment was obviously really good,” Nelson said. “It’s a good chance to meet a whole lot of new people and to see everybody.”

The social atmosphere has already started bringing students closer. In fact, new students weren’t the only ones who noticed it. Morgan Hartman, a junior and Y-Group leader, shared a story of how that atmosphere encouraged two members of her group to continue their friendship beyond New Student Orientation.

“They bonded … I don’t know if they are dating, but they’re definitely hanging out,” Hartman said.

To Hartman, the burgeoning friendship between those two group members is an example of how important it is to create connections at college — connections that continue well after graduation.

“One of the greatest things you take away from BYU are your relationships,” she said.

That’s also what Rissa Vecchi, a peer mentor studying journalism, said she believes is a big part of New Student Orientation’s purpose. She believes it not only connects people across campus, but also across the world.

“You see the ‘Y’ on somebody’s shirt in a completely different country, and you instantly know that they have some sort of connection to BYU,” Vecchi said. “Feeling that you are now a part of that ‘Y’ and a part of that family is a big accomplishment.”

According to BYU New Student Orientation administrator Daidre Hulick, activities like Hub Days provide opportunities for new students to become better acquainted with their peer mentors and feel like a part of the ‘Y’ community. Those peer mentors continue to introduce students to campus events.

In addition to Hub Days, Hulick hinted at starting something to help first generation students feel more connected to BYU.

“We are trying to connect them with faculty, staff and administrators who are first generation. Kind of (to) have an ally,” Hulick said. “The faculty and staff are really all over that. They’re really excited to be able to help.”

Activities like New Student Orientation help students find support, Hulick explained. She said it’s a testament that the help offered during New Student Orientation continues through following semesters.

“Orientation is not just three days before the semester starts; it’s the whole freshman year,” she said.

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