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  • Writer's pictureElisha Bae

Being an International Orientation Leader


Students with their backs to the camera

From August 24th to the 28th, Swarthmore's International Student Orientation took place. Before the general new student orientation week, the international students get to experience the campus a week earlier, with just the other international student community. And I have been appointed as one of the Orientation Leaders (OLs) for this year's International Orientation!


I had so much fun during my orientation week that I was determined to help out as an OL to make the new international students feel welcome. We started prepping for this before summer break even started and as it got closer to mid-August.


There were about 70 new international students, and they were split into groups of 7 or 8. I was partnered up with Yang, a close friend since my first days at Swarthmore. A large part of me was relieved that we were put together - we know each other quite well in terms of how we work. There wasn't a need to get to know each other better; instead, we would be able to focus on taking care of the new students.


In our group, named Aquila after the Eagle constellation, we had eight people. And surprise, surprise! There was a boy from Korea! I was very excited when I saw his name under mine. I was secretly hoping for someone in Korea to join me here on Swarthmore's campus. I think we have a total of 15-20 Korean students (international students), which is pretty small - and most of them are in their junior and senior years, which means I don't get to see them often. Now that orientation's over, I can tell you that this new boy from Busan (who even goes to church!) has become a great friend of mine.


The first two days were mainly set apart to welcome families and proceed with check-in processes. I was in charge of the actual process, like giving them their keys, information packet, and welcome gift, as well as answering some initial questions. I don't know why, but I took it upon myself to stay there for almost the entirety of the day. I really like greeting new people. Then, there were some icebreaker activities as students got settled into their new homes and campus tours to make sure that people had some idea of where buildings were located. I remember being completely frazzled by the campus layout, so it was quite funny to find myself giving an elaborate campus tour a year later.


We had fun activities planned throughout the five days. The 'Human Library' activity, where the OLs were at 'booths' and new students came to you to talk about something that they're interested in (by reading your profile/biography), helped me connect with people outside my orientation group. I was so touched by the fact that there were so many Christian students who came to me for advice on how to continue their worship and journey of faith at college. During the classic 'Travel Stories', I heard so many wacky stories that gave me a real good laugh. And then there was the 'All-Star Games', which was like a mini-Olympic with all the orientation groups competing against each other. I had to get involved with one of them, which was an 'egg-on-spoon' race, but the egg was actually just a ping-pong ball (it was harder than it looked), and we were in 2nd place for that round!


And, of course, there was Karaoke Night. The International Student Orientation Karaoke Nights are always the best. It is incomparable to any parties at college because 1. No one is trying to get drunk, which really makes this a party that's fun and enjoyable, 2. Everyone is always so hyped up because it happens on the last day, and 3. It's not overcrowded and unbearable because there are only usually 30 to 40 people in the room. I usually end up dancing and singing my heart out for two or three hours before I get the slightest thought that I might need to take a break. And this year was even more fun than my first, which is saying something. It felt like I unleashed some pent-up party energy in me. Oh, I already miss it. Perhaps I'll sneak into next year's karaoke party during orientation.


Also, did I tell you that I was in charge of the graphic designs for the logo and t-shirt for this orientation? So the t-shirts that all the OLs were wearing and the group logos were created by yours truly and my lovely friend, Mya! It was really good that this year's orientation theme was constellations/stars because I love designing things with astral elements. It made the process much more fun! And everyone was in awe of how the designs turned out :)


I'm so happy that I took this role as an OL - it really gave me a good start to the semester! I'm hoping that through this, the new international students would have settled in well :D


▾ Here's a collage of some of the most memorable times during the orientation!



▾ And if you want to feel the excitement for yourself (and see what happened), take a look at the video below!

(Oop, that's me in the thumbnail; I was decorating the chalkboard here)

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