As our Fairfield University campus becomes less like a school and more like home the longer we spend here, we tend to forget the moments that made up our first few Fairfield experiences. The tours we took as high school juniors become a blur, we don’t remember the friends we made at Quad Fest and we couldn’t describe what we ate at that very first Tully meal.
One thing I know that I personally don’t remember much of is my own summer orientation or First Year Experience class. The constant nerves that plague your first semester in college, as well as a “grown-up” reluctance to be told what to do, take some of the most influential moments of your college career (that being, the first moments of your college career) and make them awkward memories you easily shove aside.
My summer experience as a Logistics New Student Leader changed that mindset, and I can’t believe I didn’t take the time to appreciate all that goes into those first few moments you spend at Fairfield. Whether it’s the faces greeting you at the front gate at seven in the morning on the day of First-Year Orientation in June, or your FYE teacher you text moments before an 8 a.m. because you don’t know how to work the printer, our New Student Leaders make the Fairfield world go round.
We arrived this summer feeling almost like we were back on campus for the first time. Random roommates, 7 a.m. wakeups and the initial shock of just how many turkeys really do live on this campus. We embarked on about 10 days of training before our first orientation — living every day with a constant countdown to how many days away orientation was, and how many nerves we were all suppressing.
As a Logistics New Student Leader, I worked separately with a small group doing behind-the-scenes work: signage, schedules, room keys and welcome materials. As I spent my days learning the ins and outs of this campus, I truly watched in awe as our Team 26 (what this year’s group of New Student Leader’s were called) rose to every challenge presented to them.
To be a New Student Leader is a lot more than learning how to command the attention of students, give a good tour or help a student in their course selection. It’s learning how to be that shoulder to cry on, that encyclopedia of free and infinite Fairfield University knowledge and that always positive smiling face. It’s learning the true weight of being not just the first person to greet someone as they enter one of the largest transitional periods of their life but also willingly being the hand they can hold that guides them to the point we had all made it to (turning around the next year and wanting to be that same leader for the next set of first years).
The teaching New Student Leaders didn’t just survive the orientations, despite the many hiccups and many, many inches of rainfall, but they thrived. They laughed, learned, made jokes with their students and made friendships with each other along the way.
After two weeks of 12-hour days and running two orientations, what did our New Student Leaders do? Immediately started a countdown to move in, which brought us all back to campus about 10 days early. Again, as a Logistics New Student Leader, I dealt with the setup of Campus as our teaching NSL’s began the task of preparing to not only take their own classes but run their own classes.
The training this time around was not easy. Working through difficult situations with each other and their leadership team brought out emotions in everybody. The tricky balance of becoming an all-purpose resource for an entire class of students became more real and more pressing with each day that move-in approached. And each and every one of them rose to it, each and every time.
Team 26 NSL’s have all the stress of clubs and academics, and all the personal stresses that come with being a college student and willingly turn it all off at a moment’s notice when their student needs them. Why? Because they care. They get stressed, they get tired, they get understandably agitated – but as someone who saw it in their eyes for all those 12-hour days … they care, beyond just a job title. They care as a mentor, as a teacher and as a friend.
Becoming a New Student Leader is not for everyone. I’ll be the first to admit it, because frankly, choosing to teach an FYE class wasn’t for me (hence the logistics part). But when asked about what club at Fairfield made my experience here better, Team 26 is the obvious answer. Not only because of my time on it but because I can sit here and appreciate all that went into making my first year what it was, even when the term Team 25 would have meant nothing to me.
I have enormous pride to have been an LNSL, and the positive impact that our team left on our Fairfield community. This entire campus, and every loved one wherever home may be, can rest easier at night knowing that our Class of 2026 is in the hands of the most capable, most caring and most devoted group.