by Meghan Mulhern
On the Sewanee website, Finding Your Place is described as “a residential program of intensive learning and group interaction.” PRE orientation, by contrast, is described on the Sewanee website as a chance to “get to know Sewanee in a unique and exciting atmosphere.” I participated in PRE, and it was an enjoyable (and exhausting) experience. Groups of freshmen stepped out of vans and cars and onto the lawn at Elliot. We were met with a unique and exciting sight. Immediately, upperclassmen in denim overalls and temporary tattoos bombarded us with welcoming cheers and excited yells. Music blasted, people danced on tables, and the upper-classmen had set up a makeshift slip and slide. I looked around at my fellow freshmen, and all of them looked as overwhelmed as I felt. Soon, however, we adapted to our surroundings. We donned our family t-shirts and joined in on the dancing. Madison Wright, a member of the class of 2018 who participated in PRE this year said that arriving on campus was “crazy! There were so many people!” The energy and excitement was tangible, and I started to feel my nerves slip away. Just as I was beginning to feel comfortable, we were all forced into strange team building activities. In one game, two people were paired and forced to touch each other as quickly as possible. In another, one person had to tackle and kiss the other person before they reached the middle of the circle. These ice breakers could only be described as “awkward and uncomfortable. [The Upperclassmen] tried to get us out of our comfort zone. I was out of my element, for sure!” (Wright, C’18) For a herd of freshmen trying to make friends, it was a very uncomfortable experience. The awkwardness Photo courtesy of Sewanee Flickr Photo by Kimberly Williamspassed, however, and the team building activities came to a close. We met our PRE “parents”, two upperclassmen tasked with taking care of a group of ten freshmen for three days. Our PRE parents “were super fun and welcoming! They helped us meet people and feel more comfortable at Sewanee.” (Wright, C’18) Instead of working with faculty, like in FYP, freshmen participating in PRE learned about the campus from older students who provided insight not only on the academic programs, but also into the social life here at Sewanee. The PRE families felt strange at first, but that did not last long. We bonded over the humiliation of the team building activities, and soon we were talking like old friends. “It was nice to get to campus early and have a group of people to hang out with before orientation so that by the time orientation started, I knew faces around campus.” (Steph Collins, c 18) We were all in the same situation, so it was easy to make friends. The first day of PRE is about getting to know knew people. The next few days are about getting to know the Domain. On the second day of PRE, my family hiked to Piney Point, went swimming, participated in building a life-sized foosball court, camped out on a dock, and went rock climbing. “I almost did not participate in the hike, but I did it (even though it was a little outside my comfort zone) and I had a lot of fun!”( Wright, C’18) The outdoor activities were a great opportunity to try new things. I enjoyed them immensely. Each activity taught me about the campus, and helped bring me closer to the members of my family. By the end of the three days, I was exhausted, and ready to move in and make Sewanee my home. Although PRE took me out of my comfort zone, I am so glad I participated. When I arrived, Sewanee felt like just a college campus. After meeting new people and exploring the campus during PRE orientation, Sewanee feels like home.
by Allene Puneky
I knew that I didn’t want to be a lost freshman on the first day of class. I didn’t want to be wandering around campus with a map trying to decipher the quickest way to get to the Tennessee William’s Center from Benedict Hall five minutes before class started. I saw FYP as a sure-fire way to not be a little lost puppy asking for directions when August 27 rolled around. FYP not only offered me a chance to get to know the campus and settle into my new home without the hustle and bustle of the upperclassmen buzzing around, but it also gave me the chance to trade in my last 10 days of summer for one of my courses ending in October. Minimization of a mental breakdown come finals? YES PLEASE. How could anyone turn that down?
FYP turned out to be even more valuable to me than I expected. I got to learn about the history of not only the university, but also the surrounding counties. Every other day we went out and met community members who enthusiastically shared their stories with us. Louis Rice gave us a tour of Abbo’s Alley, Keith Henley informed us of Breslin Tower’s history and allowed us to view its beautiful bells, and Jim Gibson strolled with us around the cemetery while he shared old tales of decades past. Some of our more physically intensive activities included hiking The Mountain Goat trail and venturing down to Fiery Gizzard where we tested our fear of heights by jumping off the falls.
The alternate days were mostly spent around campus doing activities that more resembled school work. In the morning we would go to a plenary where three professors from different departments would speak about their interpretation of “place” within their own field of study. The afternoon would then be filled with a group discussion with individual professors and other miscellaneous talks and seminars. My quintessential moment of the week happened within 24 hours of arriving on campus. That night we had a picnic dinner on the Vice Chancellor’s lawn and then were shuffled off to meet our advisors/ FYP group leaders for the first time. After basic introductions, Professor McDonough, my advisor, announced to everyone that we were going to take a short hike. He then brought us to the Cross to watch the sunset. We were a motley group of people who barely know each other, sitting in the soft grass watching the sun set over one of the most beautiful views on the Domain. This was my welcome to the Mountain, and I immediately felt at home.
Our days were busy and our nights were long. Every evening, whether it was a day in which we stayed on campus and were involved in more scholarly work, or one in which we went out and visited the community, I would come back to the dorm exhausted. That being said, most nights we all stayed up late chatting and doing the pile of work we had neglected to do earlier in the week. That aside, I wouldn’t have gone back and chosen any differently. When classes started, I wasn’t a lost puppy, but rather a rabbit eager and willing to start a new year.