When most college students think of an awesome, fun summer break, their plans usually don’t involve staying on campus for several long, hot months. But for Virgil Rona and Victoria DeTrolio, two summer 2018 orientation leaders, their job welcoming new students to the university provided a great opportunity for fun and meeting new people.
“I loved representing the University and welcoming new students, but I also had such an incredible and amazing staff that became my closest friends who made my summer even better,” DeTrolio, a sixth-semester allied health and Spanish double major, said in an email.
Fourth-semester allied health major Rona agrees, stating in an email that his favorite part of orientation was getting to know his students and helping to build their confidence.
“Meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds through group activities especially was very insightful and humbling,” Rona said. “It was nice seeing how the students that were very reserved in the beginning opened up to the group by the [second] day of orientation.”
In fact, Rona’s own positive experience at orientation convinced him to apply to become an orientation leader. As a student coming from a small high school to a massive university, Rona appreciated his orientation leader’s welcoming presence.
“After going through orientation, I wanted to apply for the position in order to help those incoming freshman/transfer students who feel uneasy about coming to UConn and to make sure that they feel welcomed to the university,” Rona said.
DeTrolio was similarly inspired by a girl in her sorority who was an orientation leader. This former orientation leader excited DeTrolio about the position, and hearing about her experience encouraged DeTrolio to apply. She says that she is glad she took the opportunity to do so because of all the amazing experiences she’s had as an orientation leader herself.
When Rona and DeTrolio became orientation leaders, they always made sure to welcome their students with a cheerful attitude and energetic interactions, though there were times that the two agreed that their busy schedules could sap the energy of their students. Rona says that his long days would begin at 5:30 a.m. and then there would be a team meeting at 7 a.m. before he got to meet his students. His days finally ended at 11:30 p.m. or midnight, depending on whether he had to make rounds at McMahon, the dorm where students stay for orientation.
DeTrolio similarly found the days tiring but fun.
“The hardest part of my job was probably boosting the morale of my students at 8 a.m. the next day when they were so tired during a two-day session,” DeTrolio said.
Though their days were long, they were exciting as well as a valuable work experience, DeTrolio and Rona say. According to DeTrolio, responsibilities of the position included representing the UConn, leading discussions and tours and “becoming trained in effective communication, crisis management and public speaking through a yearlong educational program led by the Director of Orientation Services.” Rona elaborated, stating that other duties included helping students to register for classes and to begin a dialogue with students on campus safety and diversity.
Of course, orientation wouldn’t be a memorable experience without a little fun, and DeTrolio fondly recalls a session of international student orientations.
“Then in August, we had a one week international student orientation program who we got to take shopping at Target!” DeTrolio said.
All of the efforts to welcome new students were worth it, the two orientation leaders say. They are so glad that their students from orientation are now thriving at UConn and take pride in having helped to make that happen.
“The most rewarding part of being an orientation leader was definitely seeing my students around campus in the fall getting involved and doing well in their classes!” DeTrolio said.
Rona himself is proud to have inspired one of his students to become an orientation leader. Like how his orientation leader had inspired him, Rona now inspires his own students.
“Another rewarding aspect that I got from working orientation would be my own students who I oriented, seeing how they tell me how successful they are in their first year makes me feel good,” Rona said. “What really made me feel proud is that one of my own students applied for the position and now is an orientation leader for the upcoming summer!”
Stephanie Santillo is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.