First-year students are spending this entire week engaged in orientation activities. Returning students more or less know what to do as they hit campus this weekend.
But what about students who are coming to Smith for the first time this week, having experienced the educational setting at another higher education institution?
This weekend, transfer, exchange and visiting students will attend two full-day programs of orientation activities designed to demonstrate what makes Smith Smith, with all its specific traditions, charming idiosyncrasies and unofficial occurrences that only take place here.
“We don’t need to know how to be a college student, we need to know how to be a Smith College student,” notes Dawn Ginnetti AC’14, who entered Smith in 2011 as an Ada, transferring credits from Valencia Community College in Florida.
Ginnetti is serving as the facilitator for this year’s group of 55 incoming transfers, exchange and visiting students.
The transfer orientation, all day Saturday and Sunday, includes several panel sessions for question-and-answer opportunities with other students, faculty and staff, addressing Smith’s unique housing system and other topics. Session titles include, “What Makes Smith Special? and “What Happens If….” Students will also take tours of campus and downtown Northampton together, and participate in fun bonding activities like bowling.
“Transfers, exchange and visiting students have needs that vary from our incoming first-years,” says Anna Vargas, program coordinator in student affairs, who oversees the transfer orientation program. “This program aims to inform the new students about Smith’s campus and resources, as well as provide them with information about the city in which they now live, Northampton.”
Importantly, the transfer orientation also provides opportunities for students new to campus to get to know each other as a community distinct from other new students.
“It’s helpful and comforting to know that there are 54 other students on campus going through the same thing, asking similar questions,” says Ginnetti. “This orientation helps form friendships and establish community.”
This year’s transfer orientation marks the first time the college has offered a two-day, in-depth program designed specifically for these students, with required attendance.
Transfer students who have entered Smith in recent years agree that it’s an essential resource.
“Coming into Smith, I could have really benefitted from some information about how Smith is different,” says Lauren Weston ’15, who came to Smith from the University of New Hampshire. “Transfers usually come in with college expectations but transferring to Smith is kind of like starting all over in a totally different environment.”
If all goes as planned, the transfer orientation will become a regular addition to the annual orientation programs for various sets of incoming Smith students. “We want to make the transition into Smith as smooth and enjoyable as possible,” says Vargas.