As newly minted Hoyas stepped onto campus a few weeks ago to begin their Georgetown careers, they were faced with a weekend of excitement, exhaustion and chaos — New Student Orientation. While NSO teaches new students valuable information about life at Georgetown, structural flaws in the four-day program’s activities reduce its effectiveness. In addition to altering the schedule to ensure that the most important aspects are properly emphasized, the NSO team should continue to make the experience as affordable and accessible as possible.
This year, the NSO team sought to improve the affordability of the program overall, as unexpected and unplanned costs that arise over the course of the weekend can often be burdensome to families. For example, NSO provided meals for students during the gap between new student move-in and the beginning of students’ meal plans. NSO coordinators have also suggested shifting convocation from Sunday afternoon to Saturday evening, in order to alleviate the financial burden families may experience of an additional night at a hotel.
Additionally, to give students more free time during NSO this year, the programming schedule was altered in many ways, including shortening the duration of some events and clarifying what aspects of the weekend were in fact required for all new students. Despite these changes, NSO can still leave new students feeling exhausted and sometimes disillusioned by the already hectic nature of life at Georgetown.
The jam-packed scheduling and the pressure to be involved in every activity not only have the potential to detract from the important discussions of NSO but also foreshadow the nature of Georgetown’s stress culture.
The topics emphasized during the various activities of NSO, like the importance of pluralism and information about sexual assault awareness and prevention, are undoubtedly integral for incoming students. However, the structure of NSO — one brimming with back-to-back information sessions, meetings and seminars — can comparatively deemphasize these essential lessons. For instance, this year, the Jesuit values panel, which discusses some of the most formative influences on our campus, was fit in at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night after a full day of NSO activities. Perhaps more alarmingly, “I Am Ready,” NSO’s educational programming about sexual assault, was left until Sunday night — for many students, squeezed in between dinner and a performance of Hoya RealTalk.
Moreover, despite the important events of the weekend, NSO’s chaotic nature also seems to act as a precursor to the busy culture that is held in high esteem by many Georgetown students. On the Sunday of NSO, for example, students had required events lasting from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Participants are shuffled from one programming event to another, pushed to socialize with their newly introduced peers and barely given the chance to take a breath and absorb their new surroundings.
With this pressure to be busy, make friends and have fun, there is little room for emotional vulnerability during NSO — just as many students are saying goodbye to their homes and families for the first time. Some may argue that this prevents homesickness, as students are too exhausted at the end of the day to think about anything other than going to sleep. Nevertheless, the fact that we induct new students into Georgetown through a weekend without any time to process their emotions points to a broader cultural issue: a reverence for overstuffed schedules.
The NSO coordinators should consider blocking out time in the final days of NSO for students to meet one-on-one with their orientation advisers, allowing students to pause and reflect, and OAs the opportunity to emotionally engage more with their students.
The efforts the NSO team has already taken to address affordability and other structural issues are commendable, and they should continue to work to make NSO accessible for all students and families. However, by altering the hectic structure of the weekend in order to emphasize the most important lessons and give new students more times to themselves, NSO would ensure that it better achieves its most fundamental purpose: preparing new Hoyas to embark upon their time at Georgetown.