Dreading the thought of coming to a new place and not meeting any interesting people? Worried about becoming disastrously lost on your first day of classes?
Yale’s pre-orientation programs offer a chance to meet your fellow classmates and become acquainted with life at Yale in a variety of interesting settings. All held during the week prior to freshman orientation, the different approaches the four programs use to ease the transition into Yale turn a school-related function into a mini-vacation before the start of fall classes.
Freshman Outdoor Orientation Trips, or FOOT, provide a chance to bond with fellow Yale freshmen in one of seven scenic locations, including the majestic Catskill Mountains in New York. For seven years, FOOT has given nearly 400 freshmen per year an introduction to Yale through a unique wilderness experience.
Although the central activity of FOOT is either a four-day or a six-day hiking excursion, the trips are suitable for both hiking novices and skilled mountaineers. An abundance of energy and a thirst for living outdoors are necessities, however, as the groups rise early and embark on three to 10 mile hikes each day. Each student is a part of a group of eight to 10 people that builds its own camps and cooks its own food over small campfires. Through telling stories around campfires, sleeping beneath the stars, going for days without a shower, and relying on Mother Nature’s majesty for a bathroom, FOOT participants form an intense bond with each other before the regular freshman orientation.
“We could not shower for six days and mostly we had to use the bathroom in the woods, but it was all worth it. Bonding with classmates and enjoying nature’s beauty is priceless,” Annie Hsu ’04 said.
Freshperson Conference is held at nearby Camp Laurelwood, and while it does not include a hiking component, freshmen again are able to meet and enjoy a beautiful scenic environment. Sponsored by Dwight Hall, Yale’s center for community service and social justice, and the Chaplain’s Office, FPC offers an opportunity for students to become acquainted with their fellow incoming freshmen in an off-campus environment. FPC attracts about 200 students each year. At FPC, students hear speakers and panels of Yale faculty discuss academic and student life issues and even get to enjoy some of the finer points of Yale culture through performances by a cappella groups and improv troupes.
“I met some of my closest friends here through Freshperson Conference,” Jennifer Chi ’04 said.
While both FOOT and FPC are open to all students, Cultural Connections, affectionately referred to as CC, is a program geared towards African-American, Asian-American, Latino and Native American students. CC helps students become more familiar with the Yale campus, New Haven and a variety of University resources. Student activities include discussions with faculty on cultural studies programs at Yale, academic and student life panels with faculty and students of color, day trips to local museums and parks, and a talent showcase at the end of the program.
“My parents met each other and some of their closest friends at PROP, the predecessor of Cultural Connections, in 1976,” Eldred Marshall ’03 said. “Because of their experience, needless to say, deciding to attend Cultural Connections before my freshman year was not a difficult decision.”
Orientation for International Students is specifically for international students and an attempt to ease the transition both to Yale and to the United States. OIS has programs for those students who have never been to the United States, as well as for those who have studied in the States before. The program includes sessions to familiarize students with U.S. academic and social customs. Like CC, OIS is held on campus to give students extra time to settle into life in New Haven.
“While programs like FOOT and Freshperson Conference are really important, I think that programs like Cultural Connections and OIS are extremely important for students coming from a background that has a relatively small representation at Yale,” Raina Lipsitz ’04 said.
Making your choice
Although all four programs are very different and reflect the varied interests and backgrounds of Yale students, the most important aspect of any of the pre-orientation programs is the opportunity to meet your fellow members of the Class of 2005 before getting caught up in the whirlwind first few weeks of classes.
“Freshperson Conference was a great chance to meet a lot of people without the additional pressures of getting acquainted to a completely new environment,” Chi said. “I had a lot of fun, and it was nice to come to Yale and recognize so many familiar faces.”
A major highlight during all four of the programs is the opportunity to meet students attending the other pre-orientation programs. During a picnic on campus, students from all of the programs are able to mix and mingle. CC also takes a day trip to Camp Laurelwood to participate in an afternoon of outdoor activities with FPC attendees.
“One of the moments I enjoyed the most was when Cultural Connections came to our camp and I accidentally met my soon-to-be roommate,” FPC attendee Chi said.
While none of the programs guarantee students will meet their roommates, closest friends or future spouses, all of the pre-orientation programs do guarantee a great time. And if all else fails, you still get a really nifty T-shirt in the end.