After uncertainty about pre-orientation program, student finds meaning, appreciation in experience

By Emilia Donnelly || Contributing Writer

PIT convocation began at precisely 3:00 p.m. on Aug. 22, 2015. Us Pitters, as we fondly call ourselves, and our parents hurried in the Roschel Performing Arts Center, which swelled with nervous energy. I was hunched over in my seat, wedged between my mother, who was prepared to listen with undivided attention to the words of the great Dr. Porterfield and Dean Hazlett, and my father, who was trying to get the WiFi to work. I was dreading saying goodbye to them; the feeling of regret that I had continuously blocked out since mid-July had made one final effort to be acknowledged, bursting through my barriers like soldiers on horseback. I was faced with one overwhelming question: what did I get myself into? I feigned disinterest, staying perfectly still as doubt after doubt bubbled to the surface.  I wanted nothing more than to return home and give myself five more days to prepare for the beginning of my college career. Unfortunately, my enrollment was final, and as I wiped away my tears after being separated from my parents, I decided to just let PIT happen, letting myself decide whether or not to be an active participant later on.

A little sooner than I would have liked, I found myself sitting on Hartman Green with the rest of my PIT group, sunglasses on, mouth clamped shut. In retrospect, my friends told me that I gave the impression of wanting to keep to myself and they thought I wouldn’t make an effort to mix with the rest of the group. Fortunately, I surprised all of us early on by eventually taking off my sunglasses and participating wholeheartedly in the icebreakers, and they surprised me by making it very easy for me to do so. Five days later, I was sitting on the grass again, but this time I was in a circle with all of the students involved in PIT, and I was settled next to two of my friends. We were about to start the String Ceremony, a PIT tradition, where each participant is given the chance to pass string to another participant who impacted them in some way during the program. At the end, everyone is both symbolically and physically connected by wearing these string bracelets. I was quiet this time too, but not because I was nervous; if I had to open my mouth, I knew I would cry. When it came time for me to receive my piece of string, I was having a hard time keeping it together. Who was I supposed to choose? I had grown fond of each and every one of them— I wanted to lump them all together, tie them all up in red string and keep us all in that moment forever. Eventually I picked one of my two PAs (PIT assistants) whose genuine love for the program and our projects were key in helping us all become comfortable so quickly. For me, PIT ended the same way it had begun: with a lot of hugging and crying. But now there was one key difference: this time I didn’t feel overwhelmed by anxiety, but rather by a love and appreciation for the people I had met and the experiences we had shared together.

The days I spent doing PIT stretched indefinitely; the five days we were given became suspended, unraveling slowly and steadily. As we ate together, worked together, and debriefed together, it became clearer that deciding to do PIT was one of the best decisions I have made. It gave me the opportunity to start college with a genuine support system of fellow freshman and upperclassmen who I’m always happy to see. PIT reaffirmed my belief that F&M is a community comprised of kind, selfless people who are never hesitant to offer help to someone that needs it. My PIT experience was unique, I believe, because I was lucky enough to come across some remarkable people who I hope to remain in contact with for the rest of my college career.

Emilia Donnelly’s email address is edonnell@fandm.edu.

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