By Jeremy Cashion, Class of ‘24, Andrew W. Mellon Education Intern
When I started college during the winter of 2021, we were in the midst of a pandemic. Effectively all of my Winter Start Orientation was virtual, including social events. The chance to form friends was scarce. But, as anxious as I was to meet new people, I engaged with the opportunities presented to me. It was awkward. It was clunky. But, once I started to lean into it, it was a whole lot of fun.
So, when I was offered the chance to help guide this year’s Winter Start Orientation (WSO) at the FAC along with Student Guides and other Interns, I pounced on it. Not only did I get to relive orientation in person, but I could also try to help other students find what I was looking for in WSO as well. Orientation is all about enabling students to encounter each other and creating a space conducive to building relationships. For me, no space does this as well as the Fine Arts Center museum.
I was actually happy to see that the very same awkwardness was present this year, too. We started by introducing ourselves through an icebreaker I have never encountered before. It consisted of people pairing off, while one person gyrated and wagged their thumb and the partner did the same with their pinky. Without verbally communicating. For 60 seconds. It was strange and unclear and oddly vulnerable as we stumbled over ourselves, trying to fill the minute with thumb and pinky movements. While I don’t quite understand the message of the activity, it remains meaningful because the memory of a peculiar and funny interaction with a complete stranger had formed. I hope that this encounter might stick with students—people who were talking to each other for the first time—as one of their first interactions in college.
After the awkward air had settled, we moved on to the primary event: The Amazing Race Through the FAC (minus the running). Each group had a set of “challenges” aimed to teach students about art, enable relationship building, and create a moving, dynamic museum space. Off the bat, I was excited by the group’s enthusiasm for the activities, despite how easy it is to grow increasingly apathetic towards such things the older you get.
All of our challenges incorporated art from around the museum, providing information about the piece and a small task in someway related to it. To find the correct work, the group had to solve a riddle (as the guide, I occasionally nudged them in the right direction). We recreated a sculpture in Kukuli Verlade: CORPUS and discussed what makes the “perfect” day in front of Melanie Yazzie’s Making New Friends, but my favorite activity took place in Brett Weston: Working Toward Abstraction. Here, each group used the gallery handouts, equipped with the FAC logo acting as a viewfinder, and took a photo through the square. My group, after a lot of back and forth, decided to layer multiple lenses and take a photo through it. The final product wasn’t quite what we had envisioned, but it was a chance to exercise our collaborative problem-solving skills, and our hearts were there. To see people creatively moving around their space, trying to capture their special idea, was delightful. More so, seeing people so ready to embrace the prompt despite few being interested in art made me excited to welcome these students into the community.
After we finished racing around the museum, we said goodbye to the groups and they left to finish the rest of their orientation activities. While I would love to think that everyone walked out of the museum with the same fond memories that I have of orientation, each person makes their own meanings and forms their own connections. Still, the experience was there and it was everything orientation should be. It was a little weird and sometimes awkward, but still lively and a great way for new students to meet people they’ll spend the next four years with.
Having experienced WSO twice now, I’ve reflected on how much I’ve experienced through them. The short time I’ve had in college has illustrated its transience. The four years that students spend at school are, in numerous ways, a borderland positioned between adolescence and adulthood. As I slowly continue to find my place in this environment I now inhabit, to carve out my niche in a community full of unique individuals and opportunities, I realize that I’m already halfway done with school. I am somewhere between everything that has led me to this point and the rest of my life. To look down the road to my past is dizzying; to look toward the future, even more so. As such, I want to make the most of my time here with friends and familiar faces, because I don’t want the time to pass me by. I consider myself lucky that opportunities like orientation keep me accountable to the swiftness of time. Knowing how fast things change at CC, the little moment of levity offered by WSO was everything it needed to be and more.
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