For freshmen, move-in week can be a whirlwind of excitement and apprehension.
Some students fling their doors wide-open, awaiting new friendships; others slam them and go into lock-down mode. Eventually, most make lifelong friendships, even if it takes some pruning to find the right ones.
But in the honors program world, things are somewhat different. With individual suites instead of shared rooms, students have no forced relationships with a roommate. Though they have suitemates, it’s still easy to deadbolt the bathroom door to keep out intruders from “the other side.”
So to get honors freshmen out of their shells, there has been an evolution of orientation. What used to be known as “Welcome Week,” a whole week full of activities to make freshmen feel at home, is now called “Bulldog Beginnings,” now just a weekend event. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is Honors Fun Day, better known as “Mandatory Fun Day” by anyone who has ever experienced it.
“My first thought was ‘how can they force fun? That doesn’t sound very fun,’” said Aaron Aniszko, junior in the pharmacy program.
But even Aniszko was pleasantly surprised when all was said and done on his “Mandatory Fun Day” two years ago.
“I do see and appreciate what the honors program is trying to do. I still see friends I made from that day. And it can help with the people who are shy and would rather hide in their room than get out there and meet people,” said Aniszko.
Friday from 9 a.m to 3 p.m, honors freshmen will run around campus, participating in various icebreaker games such as “two truths and a lie,” kickball, the machine game, the human knot, and the always popular name game. Other games in the past such as the blanket game, in which a huge group of students try to fit completely on an ever-shrinking blanket, really push students out of their comfort zone.
“It could definitely get awkward, because some games popped your personal bubble with people you just met. But it gave everyone a chance to meet other people you wouldn’t have talked to had you not all been thrown together, up close and personal,” said Michelle Cook, sophomore in pre-pharmacy.
Despite some possibly uncomfortable situations at first, many students feel that “Mandatory Fun Day” really is beneficial.
Linzy Flier-Zylstra, junior in accounting, has various views, one from the standpoint of a freshman and one as a peer mentor.
“Even though it had a bad rap, I had a nice day. It was a great opportunity to get to know people that I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten the chance to meet. It really is underappreciated because so many people think that it has no purpose or that they could make friends on their own. But it really gives everyone the chance to step out of their comfort zones together,” said Flier-Zylstra.
Lindsay Goetze, senior in the optometry program, has been through every stage. Starting as a freshman along for the ride, she became a peer mentor, then co-coordinator, and finally Peer Mentor Coordinator for Bulldog Beginning Freshmen Orientation.
“Most students are so glad that they were involved in the program. Once school starts they will see familiar faces around campus and in their classes that they met during ‘Mandatory Fun Day’ and are glad that they made that connection. A lot of times, freshmen make some of their really good friends during this first weekend that they are at Ferris,” said Goetze.
The one complaint amongst many students is that the day could be cut a little shorter. Though intentions are to give freshmen plenty of time to get to know other students, many get to a point where they are ready to call it a day, settle in, and have some down time.
“I was ready to go back to my dorm by lunch and just settle in some more. I wanted to make some friends in my hall besides just in my group,” said Jason Wilkins, sophomore in radiography and health care systems administration.
“I did want time to relax and explore where my classes were. Maybe they could make it a two-day event or shorten it. I do think it needs to continue, but there are always things that can be improved,” said Aniskzo.
Most students feel going in with an open mind is the best option. Even if friendships made aren’t lifelong, “Mandatory Fun Day” gets students unafraid to start showing who they are and encourages them to relax and get to know others.
“I personally loved Welcome Weekend and ‘Mandatory Fun Day.’ It really helped me feel more comfortable adjusting to college. Being around new people and having the opportunity to hangout with them during that week was so helpful to me! I was less intimidated about college, and I made some friendships along the way,” said Goetze. n