Making the jump from high school lockers to roommates and shower shoes can seem daunting to some incoming first years. Then again, so can First-Year Orientation.
"It's a pretty big agenda for five days," said Assistant Dean of First-Year Students Jim Kim of the program, held from August 28 to September 1. "Generally, Orientation is about getting things off to a good start, in terms of the college transition, and setting the tone for a respectful community, for an open community."
In addition to activities through which incoming first-year students can get to know each other before classes begin, this year's Orientation included presentations on issues of difference, alcohol consumption, and sexual assault as well as time for academic fairs, placement exams, and discussions. Although a few things changed this time around?including a new outdoor IT tent on the Dudley Coe quad to help students setup their computers?the basic program of past years remained intact.
"We do want to keep things busy, and keep people active," Kim said of the program, which is sometimes criticized for being too eventful. "We realize it comes at the cost of a bit of fatigue...but there is so much information that we feel is important to get out," he said.
Daryl McLean '07, a proctor in Moore Hall, said he preferred this year's program to his own.
"They had more free time to spend with their roommates," he said. "It gives them a chance to get to know each other, which is really important since they're going to be spending the next nine months together."
Despite the still intense schedule, McLean said his proctor group responded well to Orientation. "My floor is pretty tight?they hang out a lot together. Overall they attended everything and seemed to enjoy it," he said.
"I liked it," said Sarah Podmaniczki '08. "I got to know my proctor group and meet some nice people, and it was long enough to become comfortable with the campus before classes started."
Jennifer Chavez '08 did not feel the same way.
"I think it's too much. It's totally not indicative of what the college experience is going to be like?it's this freakish thing you have to do. I'm happy it's over," she said.
Chavez said she found discussions on practical issues, such as course enrollment, most helpful among the Orientation programs. One of her favorites, however, had nothing to do with academics.
Jennifer Finney Boylan's lecture on her book She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders, the memoir about her recent sex change, was a favorite event among first years.
"Her speech was really entertaining. She's hilarious," Podmaniczki said of Boylan.
"I loved the book. It was very well-written and put an interesting spin on trangender issues," Podmaniczki said.
According to Kim, Boylan's visit is not the first time Bowdoin has played host to a first-year book author, but it was a memorable event nonetheless.
"I definitely wouldn't have read it on my own, so I'm glad I got the chance to," said Ryan Hart '08. "With less emphasis on the whole sex-change thing, I thought it introduced good ideas that made me think."
Hart said he also liked the social side of Orientation, particularly when it meant meeting people outside the proctor group.
"I'd maybe throw in some more fun or active activities where people can get to know each other. Not necessarily more ice breaker games, but maybe a frisbee game, or a card playing night. I don't know, something fun."
Although Podmaniczki also enjoyed most of the social activities, she had issues with Sunday night's Rotating Dance Party, in which first years toured the social houses while dancing to different styles of music.
"It was really awkward. There were 500 people I'd never met before crammed into little spaces, and the music is so loud you can't even talk to them," she said.
The main criticisms organizers hear about Orientation, according to Kim, are concerns that there are too many "talking heads" on the program, but not enough opportunity to get to know people and discuss issues in small groups. "So we've looked for ways to make events more interactive," Kim said.
Mike Wood '06, this year's Orientation intern, helped design a new event which replaced what was traditionally an hour-long presentation about a liberal arts education in Pickard Hall with something more informal.
"This time we divided the class into groups, based on advisors, and made it an interactive session to discuss the same subject in a new way," he said.
As for future Orientations, Wood said the College is looking to make placement tests available online and perhaps cut a day off the program.
"Basically, we are trying to head towards a shorter Orientation process in the future," he said.