Rain and Enthusiasm Mark This Year’s New Student Orientation

Andover Blue Keys braved the pouring rain last Saturday morning to welcome new students on move-in day, their spirits not dampened by the inclement weather. As students and their families drove into campus on Saturday in cars crammed with suitcases and boxes, screaming Seniors gave them a taste of the Big Blue spirit. “It was a great welcome to the school,” said Victor Gourkanti, father of Sarog Gourkanti, ’13. “That was definitely exciting.” Claire King, Blue Key Head for West Quad South, said that she and the other Blue Key Heads were worried about the rain and its effect on orientation. But all in all, she said, “The word being used to describe it is epic.” An air of excitement and novelty was tangible throughout the weekend, particularly among new students. “I think orientation is a great opportunity to meet new people,” Angela Leocata ’13 said. “I’m most looking forward to meeting new people and trying new things. I already signed up for yoga, which is definitely new.” Siddarth Palaniappian ’13 said, “I’m really excited because Andover is a lot different from my public high school. Now the classes are in different places, like completely different buildings. It’ll take longer to get to classes, which I think will take some getting used to.” King said that her experience as a Blue Key Head has been surreal. “It’s strange because I remember my own orientation, and we are now the people we looked up to,” she said. Parents also shared their children’s enthusiasm for Andover life, but theirs was tinged with sadness as they departed from their kids. The benefits of Andover, however, outweighed the drawbacks of the time commitment, they said. Gourkanti said, “The biggest adjustment will be missing [my son], not getting to see him every day. It’s just an excellent academic opportunity and chance to learn leadership qualities.” Roman Kichorowsky, father of Julia Kichorowsky ’13, said, “We’ve lived down the street from Andover for 20 years, and it’s great to have one of our kids coming here. It’s an excellent school.” “We’re really excited and hopeful now that she’s at Andover,” said Leontine Hartzell, Kichorowsky’s mother. “We’ll have to get used to not seeing her all day, especially at dinner.” With the impending separation from their parents, new students pondered aspects of Andover life and changes that could potentially translate into challenges. Julia Kichorowsky said, “[Andover] is a lot smaller than my public high school, so I think I’ll have to adjust to the smaller class sizes.” After dinner on Saturday, parents were asked to leave their sons and daughters in the hands of the Blue Keys, who were decked out in tie-dye t-shirts corresponding to their cluster’s color. Blue Keys each led a group of new students through orientation. Cynthia Efinger, Director of Student Activities, was the key coordinator of the orientation events. Days before new students arrived on campus, Efinger met with Blue Key Heads to compile a booklet and schedule for the Blue Keys. Efinger said, “The schedules are just step-by-step what they do for the new students, and Blue Keys pretty much just follow the schedule. Blue Key Heads oversee them, and I oversee the Blue Key Heads.” A memorable experience for new students during orientation is the Thinkfast trivia game show, in which students team up to buzz in on questions about pop culture in Tang Theatre. Blue Keys stand in the balconies overhead, cheering, dancing and sometimes shouting out answers to the students below. Efinger said that the Thinkfast game helps new students to relax and to become more comfortable with the environment and each other. “It lets them sing and dance and get on stage. It lets them feel like they’re in a community,” she said. “To help everyone feel more comfortable, it’s about smiling and saying ‘hi,’ just asking how his or her day is. It’s the littlest things that will matter,” added Efinger. Carly Rauh ’10, a Blue Key for Abbot cluster said, “[Being a Blue Key] is really hectic but so rewarding. I have seven Lower boys, and I can’t handle them. That’s the sort of thing that makes it great.” With orientation over, new students will continue to be welcomed into the community by prefects, proctors, house counselors and everyone else who calls Andover home. Patrick Brady ’11, a prefect in Rockwell South, a freshman boys’ dorm, said that he is trying to be as available as possible for the Juniors in his dorm. “I’m just trying to step away a little bit to let them lead and have the initiative to meet other kids. Not to hold their hands so much. The goal is to help them find their own group of friends and not be their best friend. That’s been my philosophy,” said Brady. Brady has worked with Scott Hoenig, house counselor in Rockwell and Instructor in Mathematics. “So far, most of the community-building has happened naturally – games on the quad, ping-pong in the common room, etc. The prefects have been having hall meetings as well in order to foster some hall unity,” Hoenig wrote in an email. Catherine Carter, Instructor in Latin and house counselor in Isham, a freshman girls’ dorm, helps to make her girls feel more at home. She wrote in an email, “We try to make the dorm as friendly and welcoming as possible—prefects and Blue Keys are a huge part of this—and we also try to keep the new students very busy.” She added, “I always bake bread to make the place smell more like home. We have lots of munches and meetings where the girls can ask questions and we watch movies on the night before classes so everybody can unwind a little.”