With excitement from arrivals, first days of school and Starbucks drinks in the air, our students headed out to various camps in four different regions of the United States for a one night student arrival orientation. Students of course were expecting to learn all about the program and program rules; which of course was on the agenda, but were surprised to come back to their host communities having learned much more.
Our objectives of orientation were to go over program rules and goals and also to develop a team spirit in clusters and regions. We did not only want the students to know everyone’s name, but we wanted them to bond and feel that they were supported by their peers and coordinators in their upcoming year. We accomplished this by playing “get to know you games”, doing some teambuilding activities, having individual group cluster meetings, a campfire with s’mores, and our student’s favorite: a high ropes challenge course.
The high ropes challenge course gave the students the literal ability to face their fears; see the challenge, and achieve success with the support of each other, their coordinators, and their drive to succeed. They realized that with the big challenge in front of them, they need to take the first step. That the small accomplishments build up to overcoming your biggest challenges. As Alina O wrote,
“The exchange year is like climbing a ladder: every footboard – is a step that you make into the future .In the very beginning it seems impossible to take very first steps. But it’s impossible, until it’s done. Every further step makes you stronger and more confident in what you are doing….So you jump off the top, flying down with the soul full of joy for accomplishing something in your life. Even if it’s something small. Small things build the fundament of something big. They are important. And then you set up a new destination, new aim to climb to. There is no end, because an end is always just a beginning of something new and more exciting!”
As a program we feel we succeeded in the goals of our orientation and then some. Students reflect and continue to reflect on what they learned during their overnight stay. Petros wrote, “After that day I got more confidence and now I am more than just ready for this year. And I have a great desire to do my best this year and make everyone to be proud of me. Find a goal for you, and just achieve it.” This year is off to a great start and we cannot wait to see what challenges our students will accomplish.