Story by Zachary Avery, Editor-in-Chief
Photos courtesy of Matthew Yeoman, Campus Photographer
The freshman orientation weekend is an Aquinas College tradition that rarely sees major innovation. Students expect to see the same yearly programs: Volunteer retreats through “Project Unite,” evening parties on Holmdene lawn and an appearance from Nelson here and there. However, this year was markedly different. Princess Peach was in trouble. After watching found video “evidence” of the toadstool princess’ kidnapping, students were gathered into their respective teams (each sporting a different Mario Kart character), met their upperclassmen orientation leaders, and it was off to the races.
“A lot of them are really excited to be on campus finally,” said Esmeralda Ruiz, student engagement coordinator for the AQ’s Student Activities & Orientation (SAO). “Being able to come back brings a level of enthusiasm that we’re really excited about, too.”
With enthusiasm abound, this year’s freshman class took each activity in stride, participating fully in SAO mainstays like the sustainability department’s “Race to Zero Waste,” and the “Say What?!” workshop, which provides students with the language to tackle serious issues they may face while living on-campus, like microaggressions and hate speech. While these routine activities may leave little free time for the average orientee, the constant exposure to other new students provides a space for brand-new friendships to form.
“The people make it so much better than the activities could,” said Hannah Morey, junior student and first-time orientation leader. “There is so much fun happening all the time, and you have great people to share it with.”
Alongside her fellow orientation leader, Morey led a large group of freshmen through the weekend’s events, encouraging them to try new things, meet new people, and to ask as many questions as they’d like. For young adults who may have never left home before, the college adjustment can be a serious one.
“They were in high school in the middle of COVID, and now that things are getting back to ‘normal’ there’s this air of nervousness,” Morey said. “But there’s also this underlying excitement that I can sense. They tell us they’re excited to start their classes, to meet new people, and to finally learn what they want to do. They’re very explorative.”
But, who wouldn’t be excited about a Mario-themed orientation? With a Mario Kart night and matching character signs to boot, it looks like SAO cooked up a pretty fun weekend.
“You’re an AQ Saint,” Ruiz said. “You’re here to have an amazing time at Aquinas.”