I have big plans for orientation. There will be a redux of last year's shenanigans for sure, but before then, I wanted to try something else, something new.
I asked our Bonner Scholars and a handful of international students when they would be free on Friday evening to have a little get-together fun-times. I tried to organize a little meetup of precisely this sort last year, but it ended up being myself and one other student, so we chatted for an hour about long plane rides and places to eat in town. As fun as that was, I hoped this year would be different.
I showed up at the arch at our designated time (8:15pm) to find one of our fine Squirrel Brigaders, Reid, hanging out with his awesome squirrelly hat on. He and I caught up on the summer past, then Ben showed up. Then a first year named Rand, who has since been deemed the best first year because she decided to bridge the internet gap first. Then another first year named Nan. And then we got down to business.
I had a vague idea that what we should do is some light painting (a brief explanation from my ExCo last year here) and perhaps make some noisy excited sounds about being at Oberlin, but the second I mentioned light painting, Nan remembered reading the above blog post and wanted nothing more than to do precisely that. We quickly realized we needed more people, so we absorbed ourselves into the expanding RA campfire hangout.
We decided to keep it simple: how many ways can we say hello to our fellow Obies? We started naming off the languages we knew how to greet people in, did a few quick Google searches to make sure we had a decent English transliteration of some of the more complicated ones, and we were off. We had a camera on a tripod, a light per person (it was mostly cell phones on full brightness), and several dozen languages at our disposal.
Then the most interesting thing happened. We started flashing our flashlights and cell phones and people came running to us. Like, literally, sprinting at us asking what we were doing and if they could get involved. It might have helped that we were near a bonfire that appeared to be a mecca for many a traveling Obie this evening, but we're going to chalk it up to the fact that every 5 minutes, we had another set of Obies standing in a line waving around white-screened phones and penlights looking a little loopy, then sprinting over to huddle around a small camera where we analyzed our shots and decided on our next greeting.
All in all, I think we got around 60 people and 18 languages involved over the two hours I was outside, not including a group of RAs who acted as a cheering section and technical support as they handed off their cell phones to visitors who needed a light to join our fun. Every 15 minutes or some, someone would walk up behind me to tell me this was the coolest thing but they had no idea how it worked (Yay! Educational experiences galore!). Murmurs of our silly photos were moving around the group and we continued to get more and more people involved. This. This, my friends, is true social media in action.
I could go on and on about how enlightening this experience was, but you don't need to hear my puns or more explanation. I will say this, though: this is a true testament to two things I'm fully intending to embrace this year — less computer, more people and making the media process more collaborative and more social. I've always stood by the magical moments that cameras seem to capture so effervescently, but this time, it was the moments around the moments that I wish I had been able to capture.
Wondering what we made? Video below: