New Student Orientations, Take One

A few posts over the next few days will include my take on New Student Orientations here in Chicago. While I’ll save some of the details for later (when I talk about these schools’ ministries to their students), I wanted to give you a synopsis of my first two weeks here. In the last post of this series I’ll give some final thoughts on my experiences, the orientation programs as a whole, and what we can glean from these things about college ministry.

The five schools, by the way, include…

The links above should give you a good starting on understanding these colleges, and certainly over the next weeks we’ll learn a lot more together. For now, though, you get to “meet” Trinity – North Park – Moody – Wheaton – Judson just like I did: through the lens of Orientation. (One reason these are all Christian schools so far is that most Chicago schools – including Northwestern, U of Chicago, etc. – don’t start yet, because they’re on the Quarter System.)

Like I said, I wanted to give you a synopsis of the Orientation experiences I had, and I figured I’d do it creatively. So I’ve asked Benny, my made-up college freshman friend, to write about his experience at Explor University’s New Student Orientation this year. Explor University is a composite of all the schools I’ll encounter this year, and Benny will talk about EU when it’s easier – and more entertaining – than listing all my thoughts on a subject.

Sorry if you find this method a little goofy, but I’ve got to be able to have fun on this blog occasionally. Benny’s experience will represent the events I actually participated in – obviously, each school had additional events I didn’t see. Footnotes will reveal the schools actually represented at each point. Benny’s thoughts often represent mine, but as a freshman he can be a little naive, a little sheltered, and a little ridiculous. (Obviously, some of this could get pretty tongue-in-cheek, too.)

So, if you’re ready to attend New Student Orientation, Benny will be writing the rest of this post…

Hi guys. It’s Benny. I’m a freshman at Explor University, and I’m excited to get to write you about Freshman Orientation. This is a whole new world for me, and it’s been pretty exciting! It’s definitely not what I’m used to. I was pretty sheltered in high school.

After moving in and eating lunch on Day One at EU [1], I headed to something called a “Church Fair” in one of the buildings (I’m learning my way around campus, but there are a lot of buildings!). A church fair is apparently where a bunch of churches all cram into two rooms – I counted more than 30 churches. I tried to get all the information I could on churches, and they had lots of papers to give me (kinda hard to hold). And some popcorn. I gave some of them my new email address, but I haven’t heard from many churches yet. I wonder why.

I don’t know how I’m going to make the choice about church! Yikes! I hope I find a good one, just like the church at home. Or maybe different. Some churches are different denominations than mine, which is… I don’t know what to think about that yet. I just don’t want to join a cult on accident!

Then I went with my parents to the Orientation Kick-off, where some of the top people at Explor talked to us for a little while, and we sang a little bit and prayed. I liked that. Here’s a picture of us with our parents.


The next day [2], it was so hot. Chicago is pretty cold sometimes, but the heat will surprise ya’! And they don’t know how to use the A/C like we do in Texas (that’s where I’m from).

That day we had a picnic, which was really cool because they let us eat with the professors in our majors. I thought that was a great idea, and school started to feel less weird. My friend Benson says that some of his commentaries are written by some of these professors, too, so they must be really smart. Then, I went to a mandatory meeting about something called “Dialogue” they have at Explor – it’s a chance to learn with other students about important discussions. And we’re going to read Augustine’s Confessions, all us freshmen at the same time. So that way we can talk together about how Confessions relates to life. Or girls.

But before the meeting, we were all crammed in the lobby for like 15 minutes. Like I said, it was hot. Everybody kinda stood around staring at everybody else, but some people were talking like they knew each other already! I have to make friends FAST.

Speaking of girls, there are a whole lot at this school. I guess ’cause it’s a Christian school.

When the professor was talking about Dialogue and said something about “phenomena like Facebook,” we all laughed. It’s funny to hear adults talk about Facebook.

Next, I went to the “Opening Convocation.” It was basically a big ceremony to welcome us to school. The first lady said, “The first day of your college career only happens once in a lifetime, so I suggest that you cherish it.” I guess that’s true, and that’s pretty heavy. The President of our school talked all about how we each have a life story (my college minister talked about this over the summer, also). He said that now we’re starting a new chapter, and some characters will drop out of our story, while other characters will join our story. Ooh, that’s heavy, too.

North Park University Opening Convocation

At the end, we sang the school song. It was all serious, but a guy in front of me acted like sometimes they sing it with more excitement. Probably at football games.

That night – you’ll never believe it – they brought in Comedy Sportz to give a performance! It seems like this university thinks it’s okay to have fun, even though it’s a Christian school! Comedy Sportz was hilarious and was a great way to finish out the day. The members called some students up to the stage as volunteers, too. I can tell some of those students might turn out to be leaders in my class at Explor U., because they were funny and brave enough to volunteer in front of everybody! For example, one girl told about her day, and then Comedy Sportz acted it out and made fun of her. But it was all in good fun, and the girl was from Alaska. I sat behind some baseball players, but they left in the middle.

Comedy Sportz

The next morning, we had a session with the Dean of Students called “Getting Started” [3]. The Dean told us about having a good attitude, even when things don’t go our way. He said Attitude, Discipline, and Friends were three components to college success, at Explor University or anywhere else. With Discipline, he told us sometimes we might not want to buy that $5 cup of coffee. A whole lot of people have made that joke already, and I like hot chocolate better anyway.

I sat next to a girl from Seattle. She seemed cool, and even though she was from Seattle she didn’t wear a poncho or anything like that. I started wondering if there is a dress code here, because I was in shorts. But then I saw some other guys in shorts. I better look that up.

That afternoon, after lunch, I wanted to go to a session about “Everything You Wanted to Know about Explor’s Curriculum but Were Afraid to Ask” [4]. But when I got there, only one girl and the teacher was in there. I heard other students wanted to go to that session, but I think they just followed everybody into a different session (about using the Internet at Explor) across the hall. It seems like a lot of the freshmen just kinda follow everybody else, instead of taking initiative. My high school counselor said it was important to “be your own advocate” when you go to college, but sometimes I’m nervous about doing my own thing.

I think that’s a good place to stop for right now. It’s late, and I have class tomorrow. Thanks for reading about my Freshman year!


(See the second installment here.)

[1] Day One was spent at Trinity International University – it’s actually August 18th (my first day in Chicago).

[2] The entire “Day 2” here was spent at North Park University on August 22nd.

[3] At Moody Bible Institute, August 23rd.

[4] Also at Moody Bible.

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