Orientation weekend will be the first time that you are on campus this fall as a part of the UP family. It is one of the busiest, craziest, and physically and mentally draining weekends you’ll ever have in your life! It is packed with so many different activities and functions, with hopes of helping you connect with other peers and students, meet faculty and staff, become familiar with all that UP has to offer, and to feel welcomed into the UP community. Everyone has their own personal and unique experiences with orientation, but Mackenzie (‘22, Mill Creek, WA), one of our student office assistants in CAS, would like to share with you a little bit about her experience and emotions throughout this period of time.
College couldn’t come soon enough for me. Last summer (the summer prior to my freshman year), I could barely stay focused on my two jobs, enjoying my life at home, and actually getting ready to move because I was so excited for this new chapter of my life to begin. As the days went by, July passed and August rolled around, and I was just days away from moving to Portland. I thought the nerves would have kicked in by now, but surprisingly, they did not. It was all just pure excitement. I started to wonder if the nerves were ever going to kick in. Well, I found the answer to that question the morning I woke up to move to Portland. The excitement was still there, but there were a lot of nerves accompanying that excitement, too.
I’m from a small town in Washington called Mill Creek, which is about 20 miles north of Seattle. I am a little over three hours away from UP (although this ETA can unfortunately raise to almost five hours if the traffic is bad!), so not too far, but still certainly a transition. My mom and I finished packing the final items in the car on that Thursday morning, and we left, leaving behind everything I had ever known for the past 18 years. This was a bittersweet moment for me — sweet because I knew what was ahead of me was going to be so incredible in a multitude of ways, but bitter in that I knew I would miss my family, friends, memories, and experiences from home. Also, I knew that even though this would be an exciting transition, it would also be a immensely daunting one too.
My mom and I arrived on campus that morning around 9am, and it was already packed with other first-year students, as well as upperclassman, UP staff, and parents. I’m not going to lie, I was extremely overwhelmed with the amount of people already on campus! I knew that this was going to be the tone for the weekend, which is some people’s vibe, but not really mine. However, I was trying to keep an open mind, and focus on my first task for the weekend — moving in.
Mackenzie (right) with her freshman year roommate and friend Livia (left) on move-in day.
Moving in was exciting, but also a lot of work! Thank God the dorm I was going to be living in, Fields, was air conditioned, or else I’m not sure what I would’ve done! It was many trips back and forth to the car with my mom, as well as Livia and her mom. It was an entire-day process, and by the time we were pretty much finished, it was almost time for Orientation festivities to begin. Livia and I made our way to the Pilot House, where we ate our first college “dining hall” meal (which, if you were wondering, was very tasty 😊). I may not have been showing it, but I felt very uneasy at this point. People were already sitting in groups of friends, and it was pretty overwhelming. Again, I was just trying to roll with how things were going and not worry about what other people were doing.
Livia and I headed back to the dorm to regroup, and then off to the first festivity of Orientation. This was essentially a welcome function, where we sat in groups by what dorm we were in. We then proceeded to play many “icebreaker” games, which I am usually not a fan of whatsoever, but they weren’t horrible! It’s always a little intimidating to put yourself out there, but looking back at the experience, it was nice to have a few familiar faces going into classes the following week. We even had a rock paper scissors competition, in which I made it to the final 8, so I got to be up on the podium for the final rounds😊.
Mackenzie (right) with her freshman year roommate and friend Livia (left) after the first day of orientation.
Following the opening function, we filled out roommate agreements and headed to sleep. I was nervous for my first sleep in a dorm room, but I was asleep as soon as I hit the pillow. I’m sure this was due to how exhausting of a day it had been!
The following day was full of so many activities I can’t even remember all of them — a welcome speech from the UP president, workshop gatherings, a school tour, and many more festivities. It was definitely the longest day of Orientation, and was hard because the parents and the students had their own separate schedules. I think I saw my mom maybe twice throughout the course of the day, which was difficult because all I wanted through this transition was my mother with me. It was a packed day, ending with an ice cream social with our neighboring dorm and recreational sports games outside. Gratefully, Livia and I ran into our friend from high school, Brittany, who was a year older than us. Brittany had a lot of wise advice and comforting words for Livia and me, as we were excited to begin this college journey, but pretty overwhelmed with everything that had been thrown at us the past few days. Brittany may not know it, but she was a large part of what made UP immediately feel like home for me.
Saturday was the last day of parent orientation — we had many functions, again, in the morning and early afternoon, and then had the late afternoon and early evening for time with our families. Livia and myself, along with our moms, went out to dinner before we said our last “goodbye.” This goodbye was difficult for both of us — we both come from a similar family background, living primarily with our moms and an older sister, so we both have very strong bonds with our mothers. Tears and hugs were exchanged, and then our mothers walked out of our dorm room for the last time. Livia and I exchanged more tears with one another, but had to quickly compose ourselves before preparing for a “surprise event” for first-year students that evening (I can’t spoil the surprise, but I can assure you that this surprise was a lot of fun, and a great way to lift our spirits after our moms left!) 😊
The next day, Sunday, was the last day of Orientation (Finally! I don’t think I could’ve done another day — I was absolutely exhausted!) Gratefully, most of the activities today were optional. I attended a few; a study abroad meeting and an on-campus employment meeting. In the afternoon, we had our final orientation workshop meeting, and then our final official festivity of orientation. This was the lighting of candles. Yes, this sounds a bit cheesy from the sounds of it, but was honestly my favorite part of orientation. It was a very peaceful way to end such a hectic weekend, as well as very symbolic of the journey that we were all about to embark on together.
Even though official “orientation” was over, there were still a few optional events that took place that evening. There was a men’s soccer game, which I don’t think Livia or I really wanted to attend because we were so tired, but we encouraged each other to do so. Our goal was to keep getting involved in activities and festivities around campus so that we could keep meeting people and make friends. This was extremely intimidating as a new freshman, and it definitely took time, but it will happen.
Mackenzie (left), her freshman year roommate and friend Livia (right), and their new friend Jordan (middle) at the soccer game on the last day of Orientation.
And that was it. Livia and I headed back to our dorm room to get a good night’s rest before our first day of college classes!
The first week actually went very well! There are a few activities that UP puts on for all students, freshman through seniors, during the first weekend after school starts to really “close off” the start of the school year and enter into a new academic semester. The first of these is the UP club fair that is held after classes on the first Friday of the semester. I highly recommend you attend this, as it gives you an opportunity to meet other students, as well as get involved in different activities outside of classes. I signed up for probably 15 different clubs! Did I end up participating in all of them? No! I only stuck with one of them! But this is a great way to see where your interests lie, and to try new things that you maybe are a little bit out of your comfort zone (there’s also a lot of free food and candy at this event too, just saying 😊).
Following the club fair is a men’s soccer game, which (at least last year) had such a high attendance! It was a lot of fun — we had a dorm paint-up and BBQ prior, and Livia, myself, and a few other girls from our dorm attended the game together.
After the game is an event you definitely will not want to miss – Riverboat! Put on by the school, this event takes place on river campus (part of UP’s campus, down on the river), and has basically anything you’d like to do there. A DJ and music, fair rides, food trucks, henna tattoos, and a photo booth are just a few things that took place at last year’s Riverboat festival. This is a great way to de-stress and do something fun after a long first week of classes, as well as the last “kickoff event” to fall semester! You won’t want to miss it.
I’ll say it – this period of time is a bit stressful and overwhelming. However, it is manageable if you give yourself a break! Let yourself take the time you need to adjust to this new lifestyle, because it’s going to take time. That’s perfectly normal and okay! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to succeed immediately in your classes, to make friends right away, or to get into a perfect routine during your first week. All of these things are going to take time to fall into place, and this is a good thing. On the flip side of this, it is okay to feel overwhelmed throughout all of these changes. There is a lot happening in a short amount of time, and to let yourself feel and express these emotions is healthy. You can do this! Before you know it, you’ll be feeling right home on the bluff 😊.
Thanks, Mackenzie, for your words on freshman orientation! If you have any questions, feel free to contact Mackenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org