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Students help new students adjust to college life

Chandler Alligood, left, leads a group of incoming freshman on a tour of the Gainesville campus during student orientation June 8.

Throughout the summer, each of the five University of North Georgia campuses host orientation events for incoming freshman and transfer students to better prepare them for college life. Orientation gives these students (and their parents) the opportunity to learn more about UNG and all it has to offer.

A typical daylong schedule features a dizzying array of events: meet-and-greets with professors, administrators and college staff, as well as tours of the campus.

Orientation leaders are an integral part of freshman and transfer orientation. They understand what these students are going through, as attendance at orientation for incoming freshmen and transfer students is mandatory, and they want to ease the transition for their peers.

On an unseasonably cool June morning, about 275 incoming freshman students and  175 family members streamed into the Hugh Mills Physical Education Center on the Gainesville Campus. Ready to welcome them was a small army of Orientation Leaders, each with a memory about their own orientation experience.

Orientation leader Chandler Alligood, a 21-year-old senior majoring in business management, remembers attending freshman orientation on the Dahlonega Campus with more than a bit of apprehension. She was from the small north Georgia town of Toccoa and not used to large crowds of people. Although Alligood tagged along with her two older sisters when they went to their college freshman orientations, she attended hers alone.

"It was hard for me, because I’m on the introverted side," she said. "Fortunately, the [orientation] leaders brought me out of my shell. They were very encouraging because they were students themselves and wanted all of us to succeed at UNG. I stayed in touch with a number of them even after orientation."

Alligood says she enjoys being a mentor—this is her third year as an orientation leader--and advises the incoming students not to "sit in your dorm room studying day after day." She tells them UNG does a great job at offering different events where students can mingle and get to know each other.

"Get involved, take advantage of as many of the opportunities to socialize and learn new things outside of the classroom, invest some of your time in the lives of your fellow students," is Alligood’s advice.

As the first member of her family to attend college, another orientation leader, Andrea Zarate, didn’t have the advice of siblings or her parents as to what to expect the first time she set foot on the Gainesville Campus for her freshman orientation.

"It was all very intimidating because it was all on me to find out everything about college," said Zarate, a 21-year-old senior from Alpharetta. "I was extremely nervous because I didn’t have that point of reference, of knowing what to expect."

Zarate said the student orientation leaders were very welcoming, patiently answering her many questions about college life at UNG. In the end, she was so impressed with the way the orientation leaders conducted themselves that she became one as a sophomore. Zarate tells incoming students in her groups to get involved in college life.

"The Gainesville Campus is a commuter school and I know it’s easy for students to just come to class and then just go home or do their own thing," Zarate said. "I tell them to attend as many on-campus events as they can, to join clubs, or at the very least have conversations either before or after classes with their fellow students." A listing of orientation events on all of the UNG campuses can be found on the Orientation and Transition Programs webpage.

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