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Q&A with 2013 orientation leader Kimberly McCullough

Orientation leaders (OLs) are responsible for helping first-year and transfer students get acquainted with the UNC campus life. They help out with New Student and Parent/Family Orientation, Week of Welcome, Tar Heel Beginnings activities and Family Weekend. 

The Daily Tar Heel spoke with Kimberly McCullough, a junior who became an OL in December 2012 and worked Summer 2013, about her experiences.

The Daily Tar Heel: Why did you apply?

Kimberly McCullough: One of my friends was actually an orientation leader, and they talked about how great of an experience it was. And I realized that as a student at orientation, I did not have the best experience. And I wanted to give back something to the students ... something that I didn’t have. You can build close and intimate relationships.

DTH: What’s your favorite part about being an orientation leader?

KM: My favorite part of being an orientation leader was definitely connecting and talking to the new students and families, just because sometimes I feel like you can get lost in your job that you forget the reason why you do things. And just being with my students and just having conversations with them and, you know, getting to know them a little bit better, it really reminded me of why I wanted to be an orientation leader in the first place. We’re all people. We all just genuinely want to have a good time and just enjoy life. That’s what really hit home for me with the job. It no longer was a job for me.

DTH: What are some of the concerns that you’ve heard from incoming first-years?

KM: Most of the concerns were either centered around diversity or how they would adjust to the college lifestyle. And I think that mostly came in part from, you know, they all come from different areas and walks of life, and they’re nervous about coming to a big campus like UNC. And with the great reputation that UNC has, it can really play a role in how you may view your competitiveness or how you will perform as a student academically. Even socially they had some concerns, you know, meeting new friends and things like that. So, they would always talk to me about the social life and academic life. I was able to provide them my own personal account of my story, but I always remind my students that your journey is your own. And it definitely is what you make it.

DTH: What are some of the things that you tell the first-years about UNC to get them excited about coming here?

KM: I really just talk to them more so about the social aspects and life and saying that there is more to being social than going to parties. You have these cultural shows and programs on campus, and I remind them about how diverse UNC really is in terms of the way that they cater to their students’ needs, in terms of sponsoring different programs and hosting different initiatives on campus. And, telling them about the over 700 organizations that we have on campus, just reminding them that there is somewhere that you can fit into UNC. Telling them that I found somewhere where I fit in and I’m happy and I’m so glad I did, that in turn got them excited because they realized that they could find their niche as well.

DTH: Was there anything that the first-years were afraid of that they may have heard about UNC, in terms of college life, that you nipped in the bud?

KM: The main thing that my first-years were worried about was registration. You know, when they register for classes, either they were scared they weren’t going to get the classes that they wanted, or if they didn’t get the classes that they wanted, they didn’t think that they would ever get into it. I reminded them that they have four years here at UNC. I reminded them that in your four years, you can take from 12 to 18 hours. You have the time to be able to take the classes that you want. There are also summer classes available. Once I reminded them of the time that they do have that they can maximize their true potential by utilizing that time, they were a little bit more at ease after that.

DTH: What is it like being in Chapel Hill for the summer?

KM: Being in Chapel Hill for the summer is lovely for me. I know during the school year I can get a little antsy because there’s so many people on campus and there’s so much to do. But, in the summer, it’s just so easy going and free-flowing and I feel like I can just walk outside and it’s just peacefulness and calm. It’s just something beautiful about the weather in the summertime as well, just UNC lights up. I think that’s the best part about being here in the summer, is that you find a sense of calmness that you might not have otherwise during the school year.

DTH: In the time that you’ve been doing this, has there been any first-year that stood out and stuck with you over the years?

KM: There are those students of mine that really stood out to me. And it’s not that they were either the loudest or asked the most questions, but their presence reminded me so much of myself. So, there were those students who, at orientation, may have felt a little uneasy or uncomfortable, but I related to them so much because I was that person. And seeing their growth and seeing them develop and running into them on campus and still talking to them and, you know, we’ll call each other by name because we remember each other just that well, I think those students are the ones that really, once again, remind me that I’m so glad that I did this. I’m so happy that I was able to impact and influence somebody to want to stay at Carolina and ultimately realize that they made the best decision that they could.

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