Welcome Weekend: O-Team’s Guide to Orientation and Beyond

August 16, 2023

The first few weeks on campus are filled with useful advice from parents, professors, and staff members. But, some of the best advice comes from current students who remember well the hectic, nerve-wracking, and exciting experience of being a first-year student. Erin Dickinson ’24 and Sara Casale ’24, two members of the Orientation Team, offer their advice on making the most of your first year at JAVĿ¼.

Erin Dickinson and Sara Casale

When Dickinson thinks of JAVĿ¼, the song “This Must Be the Place” by Talking Heads comes to mind. “It describes the feeling of home that I’ve come to associate with JAVĿ¼,” she explained.

A native of Norwood, New York, Dickinson is a double major in English and media and communication, and is pursuing the public and professional writing certificate as well. She found herself at home at JAVĿ¼ through involvement in clubs and organizations, including the Sexuality and Gender Alliance and the Cardinal Courier, JAVĿ¼’s student newspaper. And it all starts during the Welcome Weekend. 

“Students will get a perfect blend of connection-building activities and practical college skills, such as learning the flow of the dining hall and a chance to walk their class schedule,” Dickinson explained. “The Matriculation ceremony on the first day of classes is such a special chance to mark the beginning of a new and exciting chapter of your life, and the speakers always do a wonderful job of putting language to the importance of the occasion.”

Casale, a native of Ballston Lake, New York, agreed.

“To make the most of Orientation, you have got to get into it! Everyone is in the same boat, so try not to feel self-conscious: participate in the cardinal connectors and go to the events and talk to some people,” she advised, adding that JAVĿ¼ First Night is a highlight of the weekend. “The campus is alive and everyone is looking to mingle and meet people. I look forward to this event every year.”

A double major in inclusive adolescence education and American studies with a minor in political science, Casale is a member of JAVĿ¼ Dance, the Political Action Club, and the Student Government Association’s (SGA) Clubs Review Board. In the past, she has served as an SGA Senator for the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education and special events coordinator for the Student Activities Board. 

Both leaders said that Orientation is just the start of an exciting life at JAVĿ¼. To Dickinson, the Inclusion Dinner, Involvement Fest, and Late Night Breakfast, featuring the No. 1 campus food provider in New York (according to niche.com), are “must-do” events. Casale added Fall Fest and JAVĿ¼ Snow Day to the list, also noting that attending athletic events are a great way to support fellow Cardinals.

While the first weeks at college can be a bit overwhelming, Dickinson encourages first-year students to keep an open mind.

“College is all about experiencing new ideas that they may not have been exposed to in their hometown,” she said. “Some of my best friends at JAVĿ¼ are people I never would have expected to get so close to- you really never know how much you have in common with someone unless you take that first step and introduce yourself.”