By Victoria McGrath
When I think back to my freshman orientation at Lehman College, I hazily recall working collaboratively with my peers on a hot summer day; however, I remember more strongly the emotions that I had that day. I felt optimistic about making friends and embarking on a new, exciting chapter of my life, and I was excited to be among like-minded, talented, and driven peers; but I was also incredibly nervous. I was concerned about making a good impression on my peers, advisors, and professors. Moreover, I worried about succeeding in college: was I prepared for my coursework? Did I know anything about time management and organization? As the day at Lehman wrapped up, I felt certain of one thing: feeling nervous was okay, because the next four years would be transformative.
The Macaulay welcome events, as well as the events held at City College (my home campus), definitely helped me to feel calmer about beginning this new chapter of my education; however, these events could not prepare me for the challenges of my freshman year. I felt lonely and isolated during my first semester, and I attribute those feelings to the CUNY’s commuter school nature. I commuted during my first year of college, and living in Staten Island left me little time or desire to stay late after class to socialize.
Another challenge of my freshman year was my decision to transfer to Queens College. When I applied to university, I was torn by my love for music and my intellectual curiosities. After agonizing about which path to follow, it became clear to me that I couldn’t ignore my musical passion. By the time I made this decision, I was a few months into the fall semester of my freshman year, and had already fallen in love with Macaulay. I decided that the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College was my best bet, because I would be able to remain a Macaulay student and study music. Although this decision was clear to me, it was not easy. I felt anxiety any time I thought about transferring and wished there was a peer I could speak to for guidance through this process.
Eventually, everything fell into place. I started going to the honors lounge and built up the nerve to speak to my Macaulay peers. I successfully transferred, continued to build my relationships with my colleagues, and participated in the Macaulay community as much as I could. The feelings of loneliness and anxiety subsided, and I became much calmer and more confident about my college experience. These challenges shaped my identity as a student, helped me to realize my aspirations, and gave me a greater appreciation for the flexibility that Macaulay offers its students. Although I successfully navigated the challenges of my freshman year, it would have been so helpful to have a peer mentor to give me advice and guidance. This is the exact reason why I became a peer mentor.
The peer mentors, in my opinion, are one of the most special resources Macaulay offers its incoming freshman. The peer mentors have a wide variety of interests, a breadth of knowledge and experience, and a sincere commitment to the Macaulay community. Although the peer mentors don’t see their mentees constantly throughout the year, the mentors are involved in a myriad of Macaulay clubs and activities, which they invite their mentees to join. The spirit of inclusivity is unique to the peer mentors, whose true desire is to lend a helping hand and give guidance when needed. Even if a student has a particular question or query that their mentor can’t answer, another mentor will happily jump in and be of assistance.
The work of the peer mentors is sincere and heartfelt, and we are always in need of more members to help accomplish our mission. All it takes to become a successful peer mentor is a willingness and desire to help your colleagues. If you are interested in making connections, building friendships, giving back to your community, and helping to guide incoming freshmen, please join us!
If you’d like to help welcome the class of 2024 and become an Orientation Leader, click here!