July 15, 2009

SLU 101

As the last session of SLU 101 starts tomorrow, I sit in my half-packed room, inspired to write a bit of a reflection on my summer experiences. I've grown so much as an individual through my time as a SLU 101 leader, and I realize that it truly comes from dedicating myself to serving others. SLU 101 is the time during which parents and first year students come to Saint Louis University for a two-day session to register for classes, get informed about college, spend the night in the residence halls, talk to current students, meet members of their new class, and have a good time. All of the participants walk in to registration on the first day with similar amounts of anticipation accompanied by nervousness, anxiety, excitement, curiosity, fright, and confusion. As a SLU 101 leader, I do my very best to combine all of those emotions and transform them into something a little more subdued than the chaos that the caffeine-induced-panic-attack mother/daughter combo tends to bring to the table. I call it preparedness.

SLU 101 has given me the opportunity to build my own skills tremendously. For example, approximately 3 times during each of the nine sessions, I am required to walk up to a table of 6-9 strangers, sit down for an hour-long meal session with them, and facilitate a great conversation. Sometimes my efforts result in making some neat connections with people, and other times they result in me trying my best to shovel food into my mouth in order to avoid any more painful and awkward moments. All of these experiences have led me to be much more confident when engaging in conversation with strangers -- also known as mingling, or "schmoozing."

Another skill at which I have grown more adept is public speaking. Every session, I am assigned a small group of Freshman students (usually 5-10 people), and I am their leader. I facilitate icebreakers, and I serve as their personal contact throughout the 2 days. Not only have I had a blast meeting so many incoming students, but my public speaking skills have gotten so much better. I was amazed at how much I tend to take for granted when I first attempted the task of explaining "College" to a group. Didn't they all know what they were there for? The college transition is self-explanatory, right? Wrong. It actually requires a great deal of clarification. I get to do that clarification. Each session has three small group meetings, and we cover various topics at each one: what they are supposed to do during SLU 101, how they are supposed to get involved in college, and what the first year is really like. It's an honor and a pleasure to talk to all of the freshman about the years ahead of them, and I have learned how to phrase things more clearly in the process. I was once a victim of the "shaky voice" when talking in front of people, but now I find that it's not nearly as intimidating to me. I can speak to a group with ease, and I actually enjoy it.

At times I felt like I was stretched to my limit throughout SLU 101 sessions, but as the very last one approaches, I realize that my boundaries are farther away than I thought. I know myself a bit better now, and I will take away some useful skills from my experience. I will miss the first-years' curiosity, jokes, awkwardness, and excitement, and now I am looking ahead to my next journey with a few more tricks up my sleeve than before.

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