While the majority of the FITs 2,500 incoming first-year students are pooled from around the state, many are experiencing both New York City and independence from their families for the very first time. New Student Orientation is designed to help ease this transition by providing a week of activities that allow students to get a feel for the lay of the land and provide opportunities for students to get involved in the FIT community right away. To some, a week of sitting through awkward icebreakers and introductory talks may not sound worthwhile, but ultimately, is it cool or not cool?
International Student Leader Alin Intravisit would argue “yes” — especially for international students facing “cultural differences, new regulations or even communication barriers.” Intravisit is a Fashion Business Management major in her third semester from Bangkok, Thailand. “I think Orientation Week is that one helpful know-it-all friend for international students. The Orientation Week creates the friendliest environment for international students to explore FIT, participate in on campus activities and ask all sorts of questions — from how to read your DARS Report to where to get donuts.”
While leaders such as Intravisit nod to the benefits of the already-mandatory sections of the week, they stress the value that can be found in the other details. Take the Common Project, a collaborative scavenger hunt of sorts, for example. “I didn’t participate last year,” Intravisit admits. “I regret that after seeing how much fun our group had this year. We got to know each other.”
What about Explore NYC? Outside of the mandatory meetings, there were opportunities for students to experience some of New York City’s cultural gems all the way from where to go thrift shopping to where to get the best pizza. “Being an international student myself, I’ve learned that the two factors that help me feel most at home are fitting in with FIT friends and being comfortable in New York City. The transition into the community is more important than any information sessions,” Intravisit said.
As a member of the Department of Student Life, it is Catlin Wojtkowski’s role to plan and coordinate the implementation of New Student Orientation. He’s in charge of everything from securing the Hammerstein Ballroom for the Opening and Welcome ceremonies to getting the permit to close 27th St. for the Welcome Lunch. Again, a week of activities may feel like a lot to some students, but Wojtkowski describes the week as being extremely intentional. “It may seem like a lot of stuff, but it’s pretty cool stuff,” Wojtkowski said. “I think the one main benefit of attending orientation is becoming aware of these support services and to get acclimated to FIT by attending some pretty exciting programs. Another benefit is meeting new people. FIT is such a major-driven school that your orientation week might be one of the few times where you can meet and interact with students from all majors.”
Most of all, to Wojtkowski, it’s about community. “We hope that by the end of orientation that attendees, people who attended the entire week, feel like they are members of both the academic and social community at FIT.”
Advertising and Marketing Communications major Colleen Gruszecki, 21, participated in New Student Orientation as a transfer student from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. “I can see the experience being cool for a younger audience, but beyond the core accouterments, the kitschy orientation was a little campy for my taste which gives it a firm ‘uncool’ factor in my book,” Gruszecki said. She felt that the program “lacked luster” and that many of the orientation leaders “phoned in their enthusiasm.”
So, New Student Orientation: cool or not cool? According to Wojtkowski, the high participation level in contrast to previous years showed that FIT has raised the Orientation Week’s coolness factor. He says the program is continuously evolving and that they have high hopes for next year already. “Upping the fun factor is something we try to do each year,” he said. Aside from providing more academic resources during orientation, Wojtkowski wants to explore ways to cover topics such as cultural appropriation, exploitation and sexism within FIT’s areas of study in ways that are fun and engaging.
Regardless of what some people believe, New Student Orientation Week has a something to offer for every incoming student. Whether you only attend the mandatory sessions, or stick around for the full week’s activities, Orientation Week has never been better.