By Elaine Woodbridge
“It’s because of my Orientation Leader that I felt I could be part of UCT.” First year student, 2017.
Every year the Orientation Office at UCT recruits about 250 Orientation Leaders (OL) to assist first years and those new on campus to find their way around and get settled at UCT so they can start their studies on the best footing. Orientation Leaders help both local and international students to find academic support services, library, lecture and sport venues, and inform them about what’s happening on campus. They are essential partners to UCT’s Student Orientation & Advocacy Services office (SOAS) during the orientation period.
A good OL has excellent communication skills, leadership abilities, is knowledgable about the support services available and how to access them, and loves helping others. ‘To meet our high standards, each OL must be an energetic, enthusiastic, and friendly person with a passion for people, a good planner, well organised and a team player,” says Farah Abdurahman, project coordinator at SOAS. OL’s need to be ‘open to diversity, have empathy for others and know how to connect’, she adds. It helps if they understand the value of orientation and want to make it a special experience for new students. Often, they know what a difference they can make from their own recent experience as first years.
Just Ask Me
Orientation Leaders – identified by their bright T-Shirts with the slogan ‘Just Ask Me’ - go the extra mile for new students, often innovating ways to help as each situation requires. An OL might walk with a lost student to her first lecture, or give her ticket to the Fresher’s braai to a new student who lost theirs. Going on instinct, they know whether to calm people down or get them excited, and they know where to hang out to encounter students needing assistance, for example outside a Faculty that is doing registrations. A sense of fun and spontaneity also helps; you never know what might happen, such as an impromptu jam session on the plaza - an opportunity to build relationships. One of the most rewarding aspects of this role is that OL’s often making lasting friendships in the course of carrying out their duties.
Orientation Leaders are at all academic levels; from second years to postgrads. They usually apply through - and join the orientation program in - their own faculty but may help students in other faculties as well. Only the faculty of Health Sciences does not participate in the main orientation program as they run their own, separately. OL’s are essential partners for faculties during registration. Each faculty starts orientation 2 to 3 weeks before society week, when students register for their academic programs, and so OL’s need to be available slightly earlier in the academic year. As a prerequisite, each OL must have passed and completed their academic studies in the previous year, to ensure they can give their full attention to the role at the start of the new year. Remuneration for Orientation Leaders varies across the faculties and the International Academics Program Office (IAPO) and vacation accommodation is provided, if needed.
The drive to recruit next years’ Orientation Leaders takes place in the second term of the previous year, from May 15th to June 2nd. To find the best Leaders, the Orientation Office hosts satellite stalls on Upper, Middle, and Hiddingh campuses. Orientation Leader Trainers are on hand to discuss the opportunity with interested students, who can sign up using a form. A CV, letter of motivation and academic transcript must be supplied as part of the application. About 2000 applications are received each year, of which 250 are selected. Each faculty has its own selection process, with some conducting interviews. In mid-July, successful candidates are notified, and the next step is training.
Orientation Leadership training is hosted by the central Orientation Office starting in August and involves a 7-week program with commitments on Saturdays. On completion, successful participants attend an exciting OL graduation dinner where certificates are presented. Some faculties follow up with their own training programs as well.
Apply to be an OL in 2018
If you think you can shine in this role, visit one of the satellite stalls after May 15th or contact the Orientation Office on email@example.com or 021 650 5082. You can also visit their Facebook page: UCT Student Orientation & Advocacy Services - SOAS.
OL Applicant 2016.
Photo Dimakatso Lebepe