Sixty-two eyes staring, judging…and yet filled with wonder thirty-one personalities, stories, and experiences were waiting to be revealed. We were all there for the same reason; we got the call. Some screamed, some cried, and some were speechless, but every single one of us was elated to be there This was our first meeting. None of us had a clue what the summer held in store for us, but we were ecstatic. Little did we know that what sounded like a unique summer job, and a great opportunity, would push us to our limits and beyond. It would not only develop us as individuals- but as a unit, a family. None of us could have known what being a SOL (Student Orientation Leader) truly meant before the start of this summer. It would help us discover exactly what “diversity” is because you never truly know the extent of diversity until you are exposed to the many windows into the world that are opened when you are surround by a group of colorful, diverse people. And that is exactly what this summer as a Student Orientation Leader did for me.
Most people hear “Student Orientation Leader” and only think of red polo’s, khaki pants, and new students, but what most people don’t think of is diversity. As a Student Orientation Leader you are asked to work, live, and -when you get the chance- play with 30 other students. People that, had you not been given this opportunity, you would have never met. Naturally, with a group of people that large, you are bound to have diversity. What really amazed me, though, were the similarities. Not just similarities in the sense of being exactly the same, but rather similar personalities, ideas, or emotions that have become that way through different experiences, which to me was the real eye-opener.
SOL made us leap out of our comfort zones and actually talk to people, and beyond that, actually listen to people. If our coordinators wouldn’t have made us play silly games and participate in strange activities that allowed us to learn about the others, I would have never known the true extent of our diversity as a unit. I wouldn’t have gotten the privilege of calling these wonderful people my family.
Looking back, this summer was easily the single greatest opportunity I’ve been given in my twenty years of living. To say I am thankful to have been thrown into this experience as a Student Orientation Leader would fail in comparison to how truly grateful I am to the orientation staff for giving me this opportunity. Not only did it allow me to evaluate myself as a person and leader, but it also allowed me to fully appreciate the diversity of the thirty other members of what I now call my “orientation family.” Thanks to my orientation family, I feel like I have learned that diversity does not live in the statement but rather in the why. Why someone is the way that they are tells you so much more about them and how they can be categorized, than any singular adjective, noun or verb ever could.
Though it may have been a tough road at times, and we may not have like each other every single moment, this experience, and the diversity that each and every one of my new family members brought into it, has made me a better person. After this summer diversity is so much more to me than the traditional answer of “differences”; it now means growth and understanding. This is what makes diversity the heart and SOL of the University of Cincinnati.