Written by Nathan Allen Pastrano.
Graphic by Peyton Cabaniss. 

Originally published as part of the Spring 2018 “Rebirth” Issue.

Today marks one year since I applied to become an Orientation Advisor (OA).  The hesitation in hitting that submit button at the end of the application almost got the best of me, but I decided to go for it, and not look back. After going through a rigorous application process, I received word late last November that I had been accepted to participate in the program. I told myself that I should turn down the offer, because I was not cut out for the job.

Orientation Advisors are in charge of creating an exceptional experience for incoming students during their summer orientation. New orientation advisors take on different responsibilities to help those students during their orientation session; for example, they help incoming freshmen plan their class schedules, lead campus tours, and even share their undergraduate experience with these students. Once accepted into the OA program, student advisors are required to enroll in an upper-division education course, attend 2-3 retreats, and study various campus resources inside and out. They also attend a two-week intensive training course before the first summer orientation. Ultimately, all of these requirements help ground us in what it means to be a leader.

As students undergo heavy training, they do not realize how much the program is shaping their character. I could not have predicted just how much confidence I would gain from being an OA. Not only did I speak to over 10,000+ prospective students in a crowded auditorium, but I also met some of my best friends in the program. The unique group of individuals selected to train alongside me is still astonishing. Students spend a lot of time training with their fellow orientation advisors, and before they know it, they are more than just future employees but lifelong friends. The structure of the program is designed to shape student leaders while simultaneously building lifelong friendships. To better strengthen these friendships, the administrators of the program take initiative in creating the most memorable bonding experiences for orientation advisors. We take trips to Fiesta Texas, go camping, and even try skydiving— all of which provide opportunities for bonding.

I believe there are two skills vital to success, confidence and perseverance, two skills I lacked before I joined the OA program.  I went from being a hesitant, unconfident student to becoming extremely involved in campus politics and literary research. It is a space to grow and push yourself of your comfort zone without anyone criticizing students for it. It is part of the reason I went out of my way to apply for our University Writing Center’s internship, a spot on the Counseling and Mental Health Center Student Advisory Board, and an internal staff position within the Liberator. The various perks that come along with the job serve as a reminder not to fret over any mistakes but to simply learn and grow from them.

Students often ask me what the program ultimately does for a resume. My answer? It does everything. I have applied for various internships and organizations, and during interviews, I am often asked to speak about my experience as an orientation advisor before anything else.  Organizations and jobs around campus know being an OA says a lot about a student because the position requires knowledge about various campus resources, emergency protocols, and student life all together. Students looking to acquire leadership experience should consider applying for an OA position. The opportunities it affords students are priceless—as are the free meals given every so often.

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