The new academic year is in full swing and it started with a three-day orientation for incoming EMU students. As a student who went through First Four as a freshman and through First Three as an NSOA (New Student Orientation Assistant) leading into my junior and senior years, I would argue that it is among the best EMU programs and has made a positive impact on countless first-year students and student leaders.
Although I went through First Four three years ago, I look fondly on my experience. My NSOAs showed me that Eastern Michigan University was a safe space to break out of my shell and explore my identity and interests. The football game on day one and the constant fight song breakouts instilled EMU pride, the ice-breakers loosened up the group, the free food was, well, free food and programs like Yes Means Yes and CloseUp showed some of the important, and sometimes harsh, realities of student life. Orientation helped me adjust to a new culture and I didn’t know at the time that I’d help make that happen for others two years later.
Whether it’s introducing students to the campus buildings, exposing them to campus life and culture or giving them opportunities to mingle with their peers, NSOAs are tasked with showing students how to make the best of their college years. NSOAs enter an immersive 6-day task complete with training and application of those lessons.
They are drawn to this opportunity for many reasons - to fulfill University or Honors College requirements for leadership and community service, to further their role as campus leaders or to simply give new students the positive First Three experience they had years prior.
NSOAs have quite a different experience than new students, however, and that can mostly be boiled down to the connections they make through training with their Core Groups, O-TEAMers (the leaders of NSOAs), SWAT (the behind-the-scenes folks) and other Orientation Leaders. While I urge new students to attend First Three, I encourage current students to apply for NSOA, O-TEAM and SWAT even more ardently.
Aside from learning ice breakers, the fight song and the Eastern Energizer (the line dance put together by O-TEAM), NSOAs learn important things from representatives of Diversity and Community Involvement, the Title IX office, law enforcement and EMU administration. They learn and evaluate their strengths as leaders, learn conflict resolution techniques and explore effective partnership and leadership.
Orientation Leaders are tasked, primarily, with providing new students a positive outlook on our University while simultaneously letting them form their own opinions on it, directing them to services and tools which can help meet that end. It is one of the more noble undertakings a student leader can take on. Going through long days and leading by example are an integral part of being an NSOA, and it’s taxing - but worth every moment.
Through my experience as an NSOA, I have gained an understanding of myself and of others. I have learned and I have led. I have made countless friends and had my faith in this University restored. I recommend this enriching experience to residents and commuters, to introverts and extroverts, to underclassmen and upperclassmen. An effective orientation has leaders of all types and that is proven through First Three and through NSOA training.