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July 2, 2019

Zach Richardson: Getting oriented

July 3, 2019

Zach Richardson is a senior from Williamston, Michigan, majoring in marketing.

The organizers of MSU’s New Student Orientation, or NSO, were gracious enough to allow me to shadow this year’s new orientation format. Being a senior, I was looking forward to getting a look at the new NSO and comparing it to my orientation experience while reflecting on my time at MSU.

I remember being filled with excitement, anticipation and anxiety going into my orientation — it was called AOP back then. I’m usually not the type of person who can just jump into a new social setting with ease, so I was apprehensive about being thrust into a huge group of people moving from large lecture to large lecture. Luckily, my roommate and I had signed up for the same day, otherwise I would have felt completely overwhelmed. Having someone who I knew I could be around during those periods between scheduled events helped quell my anxiety.

That is one of the main reasons that I love the new NSO format — students are assigned into small groups that they start the day in, and return to, periodically between seminars and open events. It seemed to me that the students were able to open up through icebreakers and team-building games in the groups. Mainly, it is easier to settle in and open up to other students when you are not being overwhelmed by a large seminar right off of the bat.

The integration of the MSU app into the NSO is another major improvement. Students can input their information — name, date, group number — and their schedule will be uploaded into the app. Everything from descriptions of each event, its location and an interactive map can be accessed through your phone. Compared to the old paper schedule, it is a great update that keeps information and scheduling in one easy-to-use place and reduces wasted paper.

From the small group, I went and attended the “College Session: Planning Your Learning Experience,” seminar for the Broad College. They continued the small-group trend and split the students into two manageable groups of 20-30 students. The advisers who were hosting did a wonderful job engaging students and dishing out lengthy academic information in a way that kept students’ eyes from glazing over. The college session was even helpful to me, as a senior, to check off a few boxes and make sure that I’m still on the right track.

I remember a pit forming in my stomach at my orientation when I began to think about the amount of time, planning and money I would be putting into the next four long years. As they unveiled tracks for different majors, college seemed insurmountable. Maybe it is the fact that I’m three-quarters of the way through my time here, but the way that the advisers explained the admission process, the sequence of certain courses, the grading scale and graduation requirements, came across as reassuring and made things seem attainable. More so than I recall feeling at my orientation, at least.

After the college sessions came lunch, then the open events. This time slot was when students had their assigned meetings with academic advisers to set their schedule, as well as attend some of the open events. MSUFCU hosted a “financial literacy seminar,” covering budgeting, saving money and successfully managing student loans. I don’t recall having that at my orientation and I wish I had.

The resource fair was identical to the one from my orientation. There were loads of different organizations from MSU — religious groups, ASMSU, the tech store, Safe Place and more. There were prizes, games and other interactive events at each booth, and friendly ambassadors for all things MSU.

The evening events were all similar to what I experienced three years ago. They’re intended to get students to branch out, make friends, find people that are like-minded. A tour, called “Be Campus Confident,” through north campus locations offered information about MSU history, traditions and insider tips. Afterwards, open events like Zumba, volleyball, basketball, open mics and movie nights were all available to students.

Looking back, I probably would have spent that time the same way that I did at my orientation — with some snacks, relaxing, talking with friends and meeting people in the dining hall. The movie night would have caught my eye, and I would have checked that out depending on the movie. Unfortunately, I tend to be a bit of a wimp when it comes to scary movies, so I would have passed on watching “Us,” the film being shown during the night I was there.

All-in-all, my NSO shadowing experience was informative and made me get a little nostalgic, looking back at time as a Spartan. The last three years have been a rollercoaster, both for myself personally and for the university as a whole. I had goals and dreams that have changed and shifted. Friends that I made and lost. I learned more about who I am and grown as a person emotionally and academically.

If I could offer advice to incoming freshmen, I’d tell them to have a plan but don’t feel like you need to adhere too strictly to it. If there is a class, a club, anything that piques your interests, give it a try. I started off in one major, tried new things, and wound up in a completely different college doing completely different things that I found a passion for. You never know what door will open for you.

I would let them know that there are resources and people that are willing and able to help you if you ever feel lost. I have gone through some tough personal times and I wish I had reached out to advisers and other resources sooner than I did. I was just afraid, and too prideful, to get help. If I had sought out help sooner, it would have helped me avoid many different roadblocks that I encountered along the way.

But, most importantly, enjoy your time as a Spartan, because it really flies by. Go Green!