Orientation week at Cornell is always fun. It can be FUN. “FUN.” Funnnnnn. Or just fun, which comes out sounding a lot closer to, “fine,” than “fun.” This year, however, was the most FUN.
As a junior, two orientation weeks have come and gone for me. In the past, the first week on campus has landed solidly in the “fun” realm, bordering on being simply “fine.” This year, however, I was heartened, inspired and enlivened. It was FUN.
It began the first morning I got back to campus. I met with a friend to prepare for an upcoming training. I’ve known said friend, and co-worker, for two years now — a relatively constant face throughout my Cornell experience. He has grown, glown and generally been an incredible person to talk to, learn from and laugh with.
Whilst preparing for our upcoming training session, we discussed which icebreaker to add to our slide deck. For those of you who don’t know, an “icebreaker” is that one question that everyone must answer in a room to get to know one another. Forced bonding, so to say.
It’s easily overdone and rarely done well.
Today, it was exceptional.
“I really just want to know what people are looking forward to this year.” No “If you could do this, that, or the other thing…” None of the “If you could live anywhere…” or “What ice cream flavor would you be if you were a pint of ice cream stranded on a desert island with your arch nemesis? And why?” It was genuine. It was glorious.
So I asked, “What are you looking forward to?”
Thoughtfully, he responded: “Meeting new people and trying new things. I feel like as a senior, it’s my last chance to really get out there and make the most of my Cornell experience.”
How freaking refreshing. And what a way to start a FUN semester.
Here’s a senior. He could be burnt out. He could complain about his last year at “Corn-hell” as if it’s some burden he’s had to slog through. He could be talking about the generic wines class he can’t wait to take, avoiding an attempt at a genuine conversation. He could be talking up his fancy “return offer,” or, worse yet, complaining about the lack thereof. He could be whining, moaning, groaning — you know — common symptoms of early onset senioritis.
But he wasn’t.
If anything, he was emulating the curiosity and eagerness of the freshmen. I’d know — I live a stone’s throw away from them on North Campus, and have since sophomore year. Oh, the freshmen, how I love you.
I especially love you during orientation week. You’re eager. You’re curious. You’re willing to try new things and meet new people. You come back to North past 1 a.m. with friends you just met, both those who you may never see again as well as those who may end up being part of your wedding party. You dial it back the night before classes start, but you start right back up on Friday night. You’re having FUN, in whatever way that means to you — whether it be going out or staying in, studying hard or sleeping in. You’re living and transitioning and exploring and smiling (for the most part). You’re not complaining; you’re curious. You’re not exhausted; you’re eager.
So as this semester starts, I aspire to emulate these characteristics. My senior friend, role model and colleague showed me it’s possible, even as an upperclassmen. The freshmen’s energy reminds me to show up each and every day with that same spirit.
So let’s not get hung up on the freshmen’s record low admittance rate or the businesses they started and rodeos they’ve won. Let’s get hung up how they see things. Let’s get hung up on the newbie approach to this blessing of an education and experience that we’ve both been given and chosen. Let’s continue that into sophomore, junior, heck — even senior year.
For a day, let’s look at the world like a fresh man or a fresh woman or a fresh person, however you may choose to identify. Be curious, stay eager.
Clare McLeod is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Guest Room runs periodically this semester. Comments may be sent to