Hauling refrigerators up two flights of stairs, making plans to dine with friends, praying the bookstore has that one last rental textbook … First-years: we’re just like you.
August 21 was my designated move-in date. As an honors student, I moved in a day earlier than the rest of my class in order to attend the annual team-building program Honors Orientation Outdoor Trek (HOOT) the Friday before classes started. After a meeting briefing us on what we were to experience at Mount Gretna (crazy games with tennis balls, balance beams and ropes intended as an excuse to bond, common memories, a fun day spent outside), I was apprehensive. Sure, everyone who had attended in past years remembered HOOT fondly. But was it really that fun? I mean, on my first morning as a college student, I was supposed to wake up at 7 a.m., be on a school bus by 8 a.m. and have made some new best friends by noon. If anything, I figured the faculty members associated with the honors program and my lovely peer mentors were over-the-top optimists. But, you know what? If those were the expectations everyone seemed to have for us honors first-years, then they weren’t just met, they were exceeded. I had to physically support and wear matching shirts with a lot of strangers, but at the end of the day, I considered everyone there at the very least a companion on this crazy college journey I’m beginning.
That first long day was followed by a long weekend. As the upperclassmen moved in, I attended countless lectures and meetings on everything from making healthy decisions, to mindfulness of minorities to the history of the Church of the Brethren. Campaign 2014 and the root beer float luau were among the more entertaining activities, as it gave a taste of the more social side of Elizabethtown College. The most social orientation experience, though, was the infamous annual First-Year Walk into town — an event that was surely more enjoyable for the upperclassmen spectators than us hand-holding first-years. The intensity of the Metamorphosis interactive theater performance subdued the festive mood for a while, but we soon recovered while running around campus on a scavenger hunt. The majority of these mandatory sessions took place in Leffler Chapel and Performance Center, so no matter how tiring attending one after the other became, at least I was in a gorgeous and comfortable setting.
Continuing the trend of assemblies in beautiful locations, Sunday night’s induction on the Dell at sunset truly made me feel like a member of the Etown community. My peer mentors decided to give my first-year seminar classmates and me a break from playing countless rounds of games like “Mafia” and “Big Booty” so we had a few hours to get dressed up and approve our friends’ outfits before taking photos together and going to the ceremony. Seated amidst the whole class of 2018, it struck me that everyone else was feeling just as excited, nervous and overwhelmed as I was. But there we all were, launching ourselves into our college careers on such a positive note that the nerves melted away and the excitement was the only thing overwhelming to us.
The first week of classes, or “syllabus week” as I’ve heard it (very accurately) called, went just as I expected it to, if not better. The professors at Etown seem to be of a similar breed: organized, jovial people who want to help us learn. As a Professional Writing major, I spent one morning meeting with the professors and some students from the Department of English. The students encouraged me to get involved with the campus publications and other clubs, and the professors welcomed me to ask them anything. They reassured me that academically, things are going to work out just fine for every student, provided we’re willing to recognize our own strengths and weaknesses.
My lack of classes on Fridays provided the perfect recovery from the excitement and jam-packed schedule of my first week. I was able to go home over the weekend to work and see my family, pleased to learn that plenty of other students did the same. I love that I haven’t found fitting in here a struggle. We all chose to attend Etown; at the very least, we have that much in common.
Etown doesn’t seem to be like other schools. My friends from high school that I’ve talked to within the past couple of months, though facing the same major life changes, don’t seem to be having the easy transition period I’m experiencing. Everyone I’ve come into contact with on campus has been kind and helpful. Though at times it can all be very overwhelming, it hasn’t been difficult for me to settle into a comfortable, enjoyable routine. If the few weeks I’ve been a student here at Etown are any indication of how the rest of my time here will progress, then I can say with confidence that I’ve picked a perfectly happy community to be a part of.
– Kelly Bergh