According to the Oxford English dictionary, the word “orientation” is derived from the French, and originally denoted the placing or position of a church, house, tomb, or other structure relative to the points of the compass or other specified points. According to E.B Taylor, orientation is “a series of practices concerning the posture of the dead in their graves and the living in their temples which may be classed under the general heading of Orientation.”
Well, unless you’re studying urban planning, or making preparations for a zombie uprising in the campus graveyard, those definitions aren’t very enlightening for a new Hoya.
About two weeks ago, over 1,500 bright-eyed students, myself included, made their highly anticipated leap from high school to Hoya-dom. During the last two weeks, nebulous concepts like roommates, communal bathrooms, GOCards, R.A.s, and Jesuits have ceased to be the stuff of mere myth and have become concrete realities of our lives on the Hilltop.
Over the years, NSO has helped countless Hoyas become acquainted with the campus and grapple with daunting questions such as “What is a Hoya?” and “What will college mean to me?” As the class of 2016 flew through orientation at lightning speed, being thrown from one disconcerting social situation to the next, the answers to these questions were slowly materializing, and are even now becoming clearer with each passing day.
Orientation weekend went by in a blur. Activities ranging from convocation to workshops to carnivals left the class of 2016 feeling, honestly, a little disoriented. But through the plethora of events competing for my attention, only one event left a lasting impression on my transition into the Georgetown community: “Pluralism in Action.”
“Pluralism in Action,” the NSO tradition when excerpts from students’ applications are compiled and performed by upperclassmen, spoke to the capacious diversity that defines the Class of 2016, as well as the uniqueness of each member of the class as an individual. The stories shared during the performance were stories of hardship and blessing, of trial and triumph, of unfathomable cruelty and unconditional love, and they were united in the common theme of anonymity.
By keeping the stories anonymous, my classmates and I could, if only for that hour we spent in the over-chilled McDonough Gymnasium, adopt the stories of our peers as our own. We became one Georgetown, one student body united by the extraordinary circumstances of our pasts that have brought us all together on the Hilltop. In that shared experience, we took our first steps towards becoming a community, united by both our similarities and our differences.
Just as every member of the Class of 2016 celebrates their own extraordinary past, each will undoubtedly forge an extraordinary future. Orientation is a unique time in the life of a Hoya; it is perhaps the one time when our lives will intersect in a single time and place. In the days and weeks following the weekend of NSO, the currents of classes, sports, and other extracurricular activities will cause once tight-knit O.A. groups to drift apart across campus, across D.C., and, eventually, across the globe.
To say that each member of the Georgetown community will embark on his or her own journey through life is not to say they will travel alone. As our years at Georgetown progress, we will find that we have drifted not into open ocean, but merely to new shores. The possibilities are endless and unpredictable. Some of us will pick up a new sport, others will continue their life long passion for Model UN, and a lucky few will find they have a knack for journalism.
My time at Georgetown is not only about drifting; it is about defining. So far, my life in college has been earth-shattering. In my first week on the Hilltop I have been to my first party, stayed up later than I ever have in my life, and, most importantly, had my first cup of coffee. I have had experiences I could not have possibly imagined back home in Chicago, and although change is undoubtedly essential to the “college experience,” I remain torn between uniting my conservative past with the new uncertainties of college life.
This discord between old and new has morphed me into a social chameleon. Any label I once gave myself is now null and void, and I find myself deciding just how it is I want to stand out. I need to survey the scene, and decide for myself how I will define my college experience. My definition of college will most certainly be different than those of my classmates, my floormates, or even my roommate: it will be entirely unique to me. Like every other member of the Class of 2016, I bring something to the mix that is entirely my own, and as my classmates and I adjust life on the Hilltop, we will undoubtedly undergo remarkable change as individuals and as a community.
In four years time I have no idea just how I will answer the question: “What is a Hoya?” The answer could be anything. All I can say now is I can’t wait to discover it.