Skai Bekeris, USC News | Posted: January 19, 2020 at 9:00pm
With the start of second semester upon us, Orientation Leader applications for OWeek 2020 are now available as the upcoming school year’s Orientation Program gears into the early planning stages.
Orientation Leaders – better known as Sophs by virtually all undergraduates – are upper-year students at Western University and the affiliated colleges, who help welcome incoming first-year students to campus every academic year. As volunteers, they dedicate their time, passion, and energy for their beloved community to help new students become acclimated to their university lifestyle. Whether it be as academic mentors or social guides, Sophs help to ensure students enjoy the best possible student experience in their first year of University, and beyond.
Often considered peer guides who enable students to thrive, sophs are present within each faculty, residence, and affiliate college. Additionally, Charity Sophs, who exemplify outreach in the London community, support the program by leading charity events and a flagship OWeek event, Orientation Serves.
Amanda Allen, the USC’s new Associate, Orientation, emphasized what she gained from her experience as a King’s Soph.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without being a Soph. Position aside, it’s helped me grow as a person so much. I’ve become more aware of myself and the impact I have on others, and how to more effectively help those around me. I’ve also made some of my closest friends through this program.” she said.
Similarly, Chava Bychutsky, the new Orientation Coordinator on OStaff, recounted her early start in the program.
“I fell in love with Residence Sophing. It was exactly what I was looking for and it was exactly what I wanted. It exceeded my expectations of what I could have imagined. Before I knew it, I was filling out a Head Soph application for residences on a team I never could have imagined I would be on. That’s what I tell people when they don’t know if they should apply. You might fall in love with this and find a whole community that you never expected to step into.”
With applications for FOCA (Faculty/Off-Campus/Affiliate) Sophs due on January 20th, and applications for Charity Sophs on January 27th, Allen and Bychutsky provided insight into the application process.
“I found when I was first applying to be a Soph, what helped me was thinking about what my Sophs did for me. Not only how they helped me grow as a person, but also how they themselves grew as a student leader,” Allen suggested.
Bychutsky highlighted the specifics of the application, indicating the types of values reflected in the questions.
“We’re trying to get a sense of what’s motivating you to apply. We ask questions that pertain to the role. For example, have you thought through what it would be like for you to be a Soph? What are you going to gain from this program? It’s about you just as much as it is about the first-years. In that sense, we flip to the incoming first-years, and as a Soph, you’re going to be working with them. We’re asking if you have those basic skills, where if a first-year comes to you and asks for help, what would you do?” she divulged.
The pair explained that sometimes there is a stereotype attached to the personality types most typically found in a Soph. Allen sought to dispel the notion, reflecting, “we look for someone who is passionate about helping people. There’s a misconception that we look for extroverted, outgoing people, but that’s not what it is at all. In my first year, I was an introverted student, so I clicked with my Sophs that were quieter. We’re looking for people who are passionate about helping others. We’re students helping students at the end of the day. So, a good person is really what we’re looking for.”
Bychutsky also added, “there isn’t one kind of Soph. You can see the Soph in someone, but it will manifest differently. We all support and interact with each other in different ways. Try and show that passion you have, the willingness to get out there and go for it, and let that be what shines.”
Allen encouraged anyone on the fence about applying to “just do it”.
“You’re not going to regret submitting your application and shooting your shot. You’ll regret it if you don’t.”
FOCA Soph applications are due Monday, January 20th at 9:00 AM. Charity Soph applications are due Monday, January 27th at 9:00 AM. Applications and details about the role and program can be found at OWeek.ca and on Western Connect.