By Nourlislam Bukai
The age-old question of any Anteater on campus: to SPOP, or not to SPOP? is it worth it? The Student Parent Orientation Program (SPOP) is definitely a must for all incoming freshmen. Not only can students escape the tyranny of their parents for a few days, but they can also have the opportunity to meet a large number of their graduating class, familiarize themselves with UCI, and discover how to get involved during their first year and beyond.
The program constantly pushes the comfort zones of staffers and “SPOPpers” alike, challenging them to redefine their comfort zones. One minute, the entire hall is bonding over its first Starbucks run together, and the next it’s having an impromptu dance party in the Student Center with a group of strangers. However, that’s just what SPOP is: it’s a place for students to try new things during these couple of days with fellow Anteaters from all across the globe. It’s a preface to college life, and there is never a dull moment.
Any tenseness felt at the program’s onset quickly dissolves into stardust. After all, it’s difficult to feel out of place when the orientation’s staff members, counselors and even the attendees are trying their best to make all feel welcomed. From the very beginning, the staff reaffirms their freshmen to be unafraid of what will ensue during the program. In the following days, they guide their freshmen through all events and potential mishaps without a judging eye. While it may be difficult to adjust to in the beginning, soon after, the hall is in an uproar with jokes and fits of laughter at midnight: tell-tale signs of newly-born friendships.
In addition, SPOP is an invaluable resource when it comes to becoming acquainted with the campus for students, especially after they have signedup for fall quarter classes. The program’s climate lacks the stress and tenseness of the first day of school. If one student is lost, the chances are that others are in the same position. This is one scenario where confusion is welcome; it bonds students together, forming relationships not only between freshmen, but also between freshmen and their staffers.
However, with all the fun and excitement, it’s easy to lose sight of the academic side of this experience. Everyone is extremely relaxed during SPOP; students, old and new, are exchanging stories, playing games and unraveling the university’s secrets together. When the time for classes and exams begins, new anteaters are a bit nonchalant, not realizing that while college can be very exciting, stress does rear its ugly head eventually. But this realization is a milestone–a coming of age, even–for college students nationwide.
What matters is that at UCI, freshmen know they have a shoulder to lean on. What matters is that they know they are not alone. While transitioning into college may seem intimidating, SPOP does its best to ease students into this new chapter of their lives. To answer the question, it’s certainly worthwhile.
Nourlislam Bukai is a second year literary journalism major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.