William and Mary classes did not start until the 24th of August but my learning started five days earlier when new students came to the College for Orientation. I got to work with new students during Orientation and this year I was assigned to work with transfers.
One of the first things I learned from the transfer students was about how to approach college. The Orientation Aids (OA’s) hand out class pins to all new students with their graduation year on it. I’m VERY concerned about when I graduate, maybe even too concerned. I put pressure on myself to do everything perfectly, the first time. Many of the transfers, when we asked which year pin they wanted, responded with “ehh, maybe give me a ’13 and a ’14.” It was so nice to see people that were coming here with the idea that things will work out. I appreciated that calmness. There are real factors that make a timely graduation necessary: money, career path, etc. There are also, however, other factors such as “that’s what you’re supposed to do.” I don’t think we should approach college as a burden with this huge pressure to do what everyone else is doing. The transfers don’t!
As I was spending time with different transfer students this week I also ran into a few people that have been on my tours this summer. This was the first time that has happened and when I saw one of the guys from a tour I immediately got nervous. I was nervous because I talk a big game on my tours. William & Mary is an AWESOME place and my time here has been phenomenal. I felt a bit on edge that I may have talked it up too much when I saw someone that had the chance to see if what I said was actually true. I talk about how close the community is, how easy it is to meet with professors, and how welcoming we are. Those things are easy buzz words to throw out in tours, but harder things to see and feel in reality. I was nervous that the reality of our community might not be felt by those students I had talked to on tours. It’s so cool to see that it IS real. Not just for me, but for brand new incoming students. It’s something you feel even within the first week of your arrival. I love the sincerity we have in walking our talk here at the College!
My transfer group saw that same community in different ways. After our diversity session we sat down and talked about what the community means to us. One woman in our group is an African-American mother from Hampton. She hasn’t received support from those around her in terms of her decision to go to school: “Why do you want to go THERE?”, “Can’t you go closer? To another school with more people like you?”, “What about your kids?” This woman felt more support from two other mothers that she met in this first week at William & Mary than she does from those at home. I was so pleased to see that this community is a supportive place.
Another one of the transfers I worked with quit his job so he could come back to school…at age 44! “Do you know what kind of job I can get with an Africana Studies major? Neither do I!” It’s been really easy for me to look at each class as something I need to do in order to graduate instead of an opportunity to learn. This transfer student sees each class as a chance to gain more knowledge-the only thing he’s really looking for. Too often my goal in college is my degree. I’ll work this year on being more like this new student, going to class for the education.
A final thing I’ve found this week at Orientation is just how cool a place William & Mary is. In my transfer group there were people commuting from Virginia Beach, Richmond AND D.C.! That means they might travel between one and three hours every day they come to campus. It’s wild to hear about these sacrifices- long travel, quitting jobs, etc. It is validating to see that the school we attend is one worth all of that.