Every year, offices across the nation gear up for the summer time. The summer brings not only beach days and cookouts, but thousands upon thousands of students who are getting ready to begin their journey on the road of attaining higher education. These students are greeted by the orientation offices of their respective schools, who have a trained staff of students ready and eager to meet these new students.
Orientation is typically a fun, energetic, and high speed event. Starting with a check-in early in the morning, and sessions for the students and guests all throughout day, few days or week. There are many games and ice breakers played, but how does this affect those students who are more shy or introverted?
Ice breakers are a great way to introduce yourself to others in a quick and efficient manner, however this technique when repeated multiple times, can often leave people feeling tired or drained. This is especially true for introverted students. Some can make the case that this is helping introverts out of their shells and giving them a way to meet people. However, this could also be seen as something that is very emotionally taxing for them, leading them to withdraw even further and have less fun at orientation. This isn’t to say that all introverts are quiet people who can’t handle more extroverted activities such as ice breakers, but that there can be more than one approach to engaging and welcoming students in orientation activities. There’s an excellent article that discusses research on the gamification of orientation for college. This kind of approach could help lessen the burden on introverted students greatly.
Instead of playing games or saying random facts about themselves, here are a few tips to engage students past icebreakers:
1) An orientation leader could have a sit down talk with their cohort. There may not be enough time to get to know each and every student on an individual and personal level, but there is time for discussion of just who they are or what brings them to this university.
2) Going even further, it does not have to be the whole group of students talking. The students could pair up, and the orientation leader could facilitate their dyadic discussions. This is especially useful for those long registration times, where students could end up waiting for hours before getting advised on their first semester of classes.
3) Be creative in the approach. In my experience, I’ve known orientation leaders who took their cohort off campus for lunch to just relax before registration. Of course, my campus is in a city so I do recognize that that option isn’t available to all, however don’t be afraid to use your resources and think outside the box.
4) Remember that silence is okay. If a student or a few students are keeping silent during icebreakers or during events, that’s okay. They may be digesting the information, or they may be thinking of something else entirely. However, silence is okay. Not everyone needs to speak if they don’t want to. Just make sure that they’re acknowledged.
I’m not saying to eliminate ice breakers completely. They’ are certainly a useful tool for quick introductions and loosening people up. However, only doing ice breakers back to back can be exhausting, and not just for the students, but for the orientation leaders as well. It’s important to remain cognizant of the fact that there is never only one way to do something. There are always multiple ways to get something done, and orientation is no different. Even extroverted students need a break from being bubbly and energetic too. Sometimes, everyone needs some cool down time.