The simultaneous third-year and first-year paradox: Orientation Abroad

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Being simultaneously a “Fresher” and a junior in college is certainly a unique position to be in—but I found myself surrounded by a great support system as I navigated SOAS University of London’s Welcome Week. My Monday started with an introductory session from the Languages, Cultures, and Linguistics department where all my classes are based. Then, I went to the Study Abroad Reception, intended for students like myself who are studying abroad at SOAS for the semester or full year. Of all the Welcome Week activities I went to, the events designated for study abroad students were my favorite. Being able to bond with students over our housing, the aspects of London and the UK that were new to us, our confusion with course registration, and more made me feel less isolated in my experiences. We exchanged contact information and were able to find points of connection, even if we were from completely different parts of the world. I especially bonded with the other American students, as well as students who had also never left their home country before. Everyone was equally eager to get to know each other, making me feel more confident in my venture to put myself out there and make new friends.

I was also able to get support from SOAS’s Study Abroad Officer, the professors of the courses I wanted to take, and the Student Ambassadors who made themselves available throughout Welcome Week. I met some first-years (or “Freshers”) who gave me insider knowledge of British culture while also relating to the feeling of being new to the space. I found myself advising them on things I struggled with in my first year, like living away from home for the first time and adjusting to the demands of university life. Talking to first-years made me realize how much I’ve learned from my two full years of college so far, and how much is still so new to me.

By the end of Welcome Week, I was able to get my courses sorted out, join plenty of student organizations, and know exactly who to reach out to for support in all matters during my time here at SOAS. I even got nail salon recommendations from my Study Abroad Advisor! Welcome Week was a wonderful experience and I’m so glad I finally got to experience an orientation. As a member of the Class of 2024, my orientation in Fall 2020 was virtual and difficult to engage in. So this year, being able to attend in-person events and meet so many new people was incredibly rewarding and made me feel prepared and excited for my upcoming first week of classes. This week, there are still more orientation events going on, so I’m excited to continue to try new things and meet as many people as possible.

Pictures: Me in front of the SOAS main building with my brand-new ID; visiting the Big Ben!