By Spencer Pinque ‘26
Orientation all began on a Thursday. The chaos of the student arrival: the sea of cars, and the inevitable cries of parents lingering in the air. When matriculation came, smiling faces were literally everywhere. The shaking hands with the Colleges President, which is regarded as a very important benchmark because it will be followed up with another handshake upon graduation. The move-in was made easier with the help of the Orientation Mentors. The huge Welcome Ceremony felt very formal, and for good reason, we were the ones being celebrated joining a community. There was even a CA (Community Assistant) meet too because knowing your floormates is an easy passageway into the social scene. That night, being called down to the football field and being corralled like cattle appeared boring, but personally I thought that the Illumination 2026 Photo looked phenomenal. After that, the walk to HWS Fest was a scene of Hamster Balls and Ice Cream stands that had my jaw on the floor for one.
Orientation continued into Friday. The generic surveys and class registering was expected as was the helpful information sessions and panels in various rooms around campus during the day. It was fun Friday with BINGO games and a Donut Truck for us. There was even a hot air balloon ride, but I enjoyed the long line more than the ride itself honestly with the perfect excuse to talk to new people. If you weren’t too busy being scared of heights, the view was rewarding; you would be shocked at how close students really are to Lake Seneca and how beautiful the campus looked from up high.
Orientation doesn’t stop for the weekend: look at Saturday. The day began with the Day of Service around Geneva. It was one of the highlights of the Orientation experience, designed to get our energy out and serve our community simultaneously. But after the work, there was surely play, with the plethora of opportunities, like getting Snow Cones or attending the HWS Carnival that evening.
Orientation concluded on a rainy Sunday. The LOVE Geneva Tour introduced us to the local businesses and restaurants in downtown Geneva to better integrate us into our new homes. There was a Campus Wide Open House that involved many options to embark on, so my roommate and I decided on climbing St. Mark Tower, which gave a view that exceeded my expectations after a claustrophobic winding staircase.
Despite how fun it was, the majority of first-years I asked would immediately just talk about their exhaustion from orientation. In my eyes, every student can talk about how much they loathed it but whether they know it or not, the aspect of making new friends in a new place, was a lot easier to do when everyone possessed the shared interest of wanting to just take a nap. If the student body had a lot of free time without structure, we would begin getting anxious, so it is no shock that the orientation schedule was jam-packed.
My roommate Nate said it best, “I think that before the start of classes, orientation felt like summer camp.” You’re in a group with the same twelve or so people, and tasked with all of these silly retreat-like activities for days at a time. The only difference is that now that “summer camp” is over, we get to live in the same place for the next few years, and that perpetual agenda of activities has now shifted to free time between multiple classes to seize the day. Personally, I would like to go back to the mindless innocence (and lack of homework) of my first days on campus after being here for a month.
Students I spoke to said they wished that they could have posted their phone numbers or social media accounts to more easily contact others. An example they gave was that if they knew who was in their classes, they would have some resources, that way if they had any homework questions down the line – the best advice is to reach out. Even if someone is sharing a dorm, having this method of contact is better to foster a sense of community. You may never know the kids in the room right across from you. It can be as difficult or as simple as one wants it to be.
My peers said that in high school they knew all the kids around the same age group as them, and in the surrounding area. Thus, every first day of school back then was not as daunting as it was to step onto HWS campus. They said that if they were allowed to be dropped on a lawn or a big room for an hour and could mingle freely, they would have had a better time connecting with others. Naturally, that may work for some of the class, but not others, since everyone has a specific way of socializing. Although, the class of first-years to college all share a common goal to make the most out of their time at Hobart & William Smith. Then it’s good that Orientation gave the Statesmen and Herons the spark they needed to start the fire!