Okay, so it’s been a while since my last post. I have been road-tripping down California with my family, on the way to drop my sister Haley off at Point Loma Nazarene University. I’ve never been on campus here before, so this was my chance to see what she’s been so excited about (and to see what everyone means when they say, “oh, what a beautiful campus”). Also, selfishly, it’s been my chance to compare freshman orientation at PLNU to my own Traditiation experience at Whitworth.
Full disclosure: I absolutely thrived during Traditiation. The RAs were told to act as if everything that happened was The Best Thing Ever, and it completely worked. Their enthusiasm was contagious, which is usually more than enough for me to get excited about whatever is going on.
Back to yesterday: Rolling onto campus at Point Loma, we pulled our car up to Klassen Hall where a group of student leaders and athletes were waiting to meet us. At Whitworth, freshman move-in is kind of a free-for-all. Everyone can start moving in at a certain time, so you get lines of freshmen waiting to move in and two or three student leaders per car. At PLNU, they stagger the freshmen in roughly half-hour incriments, so every student leader is available to help families move in one by one. They gave a yell when we rolled up, and then grabbed all – yes, ALL – of the stuff from our car and brought it into the room. What a relief! A process that took me at least half an hour at Whitworth took Haley about 10 minutes.
Keep in mind that I’m coming at this mostly as an observer. I’m not a new PLNU student, nor am I a parent. So they aren’t really focusing on me – which works out okay.
From what I’ve seen so far (and we’re about a day and a half into our two-day whirlwind tour), PLNU’s orientation is much less structured and more laid-back than Whitworth’s. Which, of course, has pros and cons. It’s nice for students to be able to ease into the school year and spend their days building relationships, but that’s hard to do when the parents are still in town. It seems like most students are clinging to their parents pretty well. Which, of course, is COMPLETELY natural and okay, but it doesn’t look like they have much programming that forces them to socialize tomorrow. No programming on Sunday, and classes start on Monday. Not much time to build relationships. It’s a great scenario for more outgoing students, because they have the opportunity to spend all day Sunday walking around dorms and meeting people. But for those who are a little more uncertain, it doesn’t look like there is any program that requires new students to work together. It seems like it would be very easy for students to fall through the cracks.
At Whitworth, Traditiation is HUGE. It’s big here, too, but I don’t know if any PLNU students would call it the highlight of their college career. I might be completely underestimating it, but it looks pretty low-key to me compared to the Traditiation regiment. At Whitworth, we’ve got a welcome presentation in the Fieldhouse. We’ve got Yell-Off. Mock Rock. Wooing. Final ceremonies. It’s a whirlwind, and as a freshman, you never quite know where you’re going to land. My point, though, is that everyone lands somewhere. Most people land in a place where they feel very much a part of the community, and they have begun to build relationships with people that will continue to be their best friends for four years. I’m not saying that those things don’t happen at PLNU, but from my observations, I think that the students have to be a little more intentional about building them during the first couple weeks of school.
All in all, PLNU is a great school. Current students love it, and recent grads are pretty sad to leave. Most of the freshmen and parents seem pretty excited about it too, which is awesome. Some fantastic things have been happening over the past couple of days (and I’ll blog more about them later), but I feel very fortunate to have had the start at Whtiworth that I did.
One more analogy, then I’ll head out: Freshman orientation at Point Loma is like the way I learned to swim. I was afraid of the water, so I just hung out in the shallow end until I was comfortable enough (and big enough) to go deeper. I don’t have any strokes down very well, but I do okay. I’ll survive in the water, and I can enjoy it. Traditiation at Whitworth is like being thrown off a boat. You are panicked for a moment and have no idea which way is up, but you’re forced to survive. You find a way. And sometimes, that’s the best way. I know it was for me.