That Wasn’t What I Expected.

As my time as Peer Leader comes to an end, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you what my journey has been like. I was hired as a Peer Leader in April of 2016 and I have been a Peer Leader for the new first year students of 2016 and 2017. When I applied for this job, I was looking for a place where I could share my experiences with students who were experiencing first year transitions. I found exactly that: the platform to support new first year students who were in need of help during their first year at Ohio State. What I hadn’t expected were the ways that I have grown and the lessons that I have learned along the way. I thought I was taking a job where I punched the clock in and out of work and that my experience would be boxed into that time. My role as a Peer Leader has significantly influenced me over the last two years.

There are two things that I have learned from this job that I want to share: you can find community where you aren’t looking for it and everyone’s story is valuable.

I never pictured myself being friends with my coworkers — I had already found community and I didn’t feel a need for more friends. Throughout my first year as a Peer Leader, I did not invest in time outside of work with my fellow Peer Leaders. At the end that year I felt like I had missed an opportunity to know my coworkers. I was excited to correct my attitude for my second year as a Peer Leader. With the mindset that I should invest time in developing relationships with my coworkers, I began to find community in the same place that I wasn’t looking for it one year ago. Being a Peer Leader soon became more of a community to me than a job. I was more excited to be at work because I knew my coworkers on a personal level and I was more inclined to ask them for help and share ideas.

Being a Peer Leader taught me that I didn’t know how to listen to other people. That sounds a bit weird, but trust me, I was bad at listening to others. Have you ever talked to someone who always takes what you share with them (bad news, good news, etc.) and makes it about themselves? That was me, and I didn’t even know it. Some of the training for Peer Leaders included active and reflective listening. I have grown better at listening and I have started to intentionally listen to my friends, coworkers, and classmates. Learning how to listen has helped me discover that every individual has a story. Being able to hear others’ stories has shown me how people view the world and has ultimately helped me to love other people well. I have found it is easier to enjoy being around people when you have spent time listening to them and trying to understand their story. I have gotten to see the depth and individuality within people by taking time to listen to them.

For me being a Peer Leader turned out to be a great learning experience when I had previously viewed it as a way to guide and teach other people. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn so much from being a Peer Leader. I encourage you to step into places where you can learn from others. It is valuable to be around people who challenge your ideas so you can reflect on them. A learning experience like this doesn’t have to be a job; maybe it is through a student org you join, a place you volunteer, or a class you take. We tend to challenge ourselves academically, let’s challenge ourselves in a new way by going places and having experiences that aren’t where we are most comfortable – we might learn some impactful lessons.

Developing meaningful friendships

It’s easy to connect with people about your favorite Netflix series, where you worked in high school, or even why you chose to come to Ohio State. But how do you know when to initiate the more difficult conversations? During my first year at Ohio State, I didn’t know how to naturally get to know people on a deeper level. Coming to college, you have to choose when to be vulnerable and when to ask the difficult questions. Some of these conversations might include missing your friends back home, adjusting to college, or talking about what is really going on in your life.

I’ve always been a little nervous to be the person to initiate conversations. This was especially true when I came to a big college and it seemed like everyone around me was making close friends so much faster and easier than I was in my attempt to make friends. I just assumed that someone else would be more social and willing to befriend me. That’s not always the case, because everyone is at least a little scared to get to know others–even the outgoing kids! During my first year, I had to keep reminding myself that many freshmen were experiencing similar feelings.

So, where do you go from there? I know it can be intimidating, but stepping out of your comfort zone to initiate these conversations can be really crucial. Here are a few questions to think about or pose to your peers if you’re wanting to take your friendships deeper:

  • What has been the most surprising thing about your first year on campus?
  • What is something you’re excited for this year that you haven’t experienced yet?
  • Is there anything you’d like to do in Columbus or at Ohio State that you haven’t done yet?

There is so much power in being a consistent friend, and that could include sitting by the same people in class, attending a student organization meeting, or just hanging out with the people on your floor. All of these situations are opportunities to push through the wall of small talk.

I think it comes down to this: we all desire to be known and accepted by others. Our lives also become more meaningful when we know others on a deeper level. Whether you’re an upperclass student or new to campus, we never reach a point of having “enough” friends. All of the FYE Peer Leaders especially are upperclass students who are available and willing to talk if you’d like! Feel free to reach out to one of us for other tips on how to build deeper friendships.

Scarlet Scramble is Back

Did you know University Hall is the real building used as Hollis College in Pretty Little Liars? Or that the first Wendy’s restaurant ever opened was in Columbus? Do you think you can eat a stack of Sloopy’s pancakes faster than anyone else? Then boy do I have an event for you — Scarlet Scramble 2015 is here!

So what is Scarlet Scramble?

It’s a 24-hour campus and city adventure that includes challenges, trivia questions, and clues to decode. Teams compete from 6 p.m. on March 27 to 6 p.m. on March 28 to earn points and win prizes (like Amazon and HOMAGE gift cards). The Scramble is brought to you by First Year Experience, and each team should have at least five first year students, but can have up to five other students (non first-years) too.

You know you want a new HOMAGE shirt.

You know you want a new HOMAGE shirt.

I participated in my first Scarlet Scramble my freshman year and have helped plan it the last two years. It is one of my favorite events on campus because not only do you get a sweet T-shirt just for signing up, you also get to run around campus with your friends, learn something new while you’re doing it, and compete for prizes! Plus you end up with some pretty cool pictures like these.

TBT to Scarlet Scramble 2013

TBT to Scarlet Scramble 2013

TBT to Scar Scram 2014

TBT to Scarlet Scramble 2014

To learn more about #ScarScram2015, check out the video below!

Registration is open until March 9. To sign up for the best time of your life visit

See you March 27!

Remember me? That Bernie guy…

Oh hey! I remember you; you’re that funny guy from Orientation!

That’s how most you of know me. At least that’s what you say when you see me on campus. Yes, I was the guy who welcomed you to Orientation. It’s a great job, it really is. But sadly, that’s probably the last time most of you saw me or my colleagues in First Year Experience. And why should we expect any different. We work on the third floor of the Student Academic Services building on the far edge of campus. You have no reason to wander up here.

Many of you are probably still connected to your Orientation Leader, right? I’m sure they may help you from time to time. “Yes, but Bernie, they don’t actually work for you anymore,” you might say. That’s right. The summer is over. The red polo shirts have been retired.

[End scene]

My colleagues and I started a conversation just like this a little over a year ago. It wasn’t hard to figure out that we’ve been doing this all wrong. The people you might actually listen to, connect with and reach out to when you have a question (your peers, that is)…we let those people go. Every August. And now, during the school year, we’re hoping you’ll listen to us. A bunch of staff members who haven’t been college students for 10 or even 20 years. Heck, my son is closer to your age and he’s nine.

So, I hope you’re not offended, but starting this fall, when it comes time to actually connect with you, it won’t be me or my colleagues leading the charge anymore. Instead, we’re going to let you connect with and talk to a fellow student. And not some random upper-class student you haven’t met before (because honestly, that’s always awkward) but those same students you’ve come to know and trust because they helped you feel at home, get some answers and have a great time at Orientation.

Now, there will be a slight change. We won’t call them Orientation Leaders anymore. They’ll be so much more than that. They’ll meet and help new students like you over the summer at Orientation, just like they always did, but now they’ll stay in touch, answer your questions and help you explore Ohio State all throughout the year. And the new name: FYE Peer Leaders. Simple, right?

I have a hunch that some of you (if you’ve read this far), might be thinking, “Bernie, how can I apply for this new Peer Leader job?” Well, I have good news for you. The application is available now (through January 30). All you have to do is go to our webpage to find out more about applying. I hope you’ll watch the short video and maybe even join us this month at an info session.

The one catch is that this job isn’t for everyone, and you may not be ready…just yet. I say that because I remember applying for a pretty amazing job on campus my first year, one that had the potential to impact other students. I started the process, filled out the application and even successfully made it through the group interview. But then, just before getting the final word, I removed myself from the process. Why? Well, I knew I wasn’t ready yet. I barely knew myself, how was I going to help others. I still had some growing up to do. The next year, my sophomore year, I applied again. And this time I stayed with the process. The very next fall I became an RA in Taylor Tower and had the time of my life helping other students.

I hope, when the time is right, you’ll apply to be an FYE Peer Leader. First-year students need people like you in their lives. We understand that now.

6 Themes Not to Miss This Semester

If you’re like us in First Year Experience, you love a good theme. Themes can take an experience from basic to amazing, and that’s why the First Year Success Series has six themes to help you have the best first semester ever. Here’s some insight into each of these themes; hopefully you will see some experiences not to be missed!

Theme #1: Academic Engagement and Career Exploration

To stay at Ohio State, you will need to be successful inside the classroom. College requires you to study smarter, learn faster, and think more critically. Once you have gotten the hang of that, you may also want to think about requirements for graduate school, internships in your field of study, or research with a faculty member. Mastering the content in this theme area grants you the opportunity to continue to explore the rest of the collegiate experience–like Welcome Week.

2014 sessions to consider:

  • A+ Research: Where Do You Start?
  • Is Your Major ‘The One’
  • Where’s Woody? Find Woody Hayes in Thompson Library
  • Study Smarter! Memory Tools for Effective Studying

Theme #2: Diversity and Global Awareness

Ohio State is pretty big–over 7,000 new students started here this fall, contributing to a total population of more than 50,000 students. With a community this size, we have people representing many cultures, genders, races, languages, sexual orientations, religions, nationalities, and experiences. Appreciating diversity means more than trying different foods or taking O-H-I-O pictures on a study abroad trip (although those are cool things that you definitely should do). Being a a member of the Buckeye family means learning about different people so that we can all advocate for each other and celebrate our differences. Sessions in this theme will help you begin to explore new cultures and issues, think about studying abroad, and connecting with others who share your identity.

2014 sessions to consider:

  • Take a Stand: A Guide to Learning about Yourself & Peers
  • Study Abroad Expo
  • How to be an Ally
  • International Coffee Hour

Theme #3: Finances

Few things are worse than getting to the end of your college experience and realizing you made poor financial decisions which will follow you long after your time at Ohio State is over. What can you do to stretch your dollar and be smart about how you plan your budget for the next fours years? Go to sessions in this theme to make smart decisions about financing your time at Ohio State.

2014 sessions to consider:

  • LANDLORDS, LEASING & LOTS MORE: Get the 43201 about Moving Off-Campus!
  • Personal Finance 101
  • Budgeting Workshop
  • Extreme Couponing

Theme #4: Health and Wellness

With all of the work you’ll do to succeed in the classroom and all of the energy you’ll put into making friends and getting involved, it’s important for you to find ways to take care of yourself; that may include eating healthy, making smart social choices, or hitting the gym. There are actually nine dimensions of wellness for you to think about as a student. Sessions in this theme will help you consider how you are taking care of yourself in each dimension to live a healthy lifestyle during your time at Ohio State.

2014 sessions to consider:

  • Party Smart
  • Counting Sheep: How Sleep Impacts Your Success
  • The Right Bite on a College Campus
  • Double Dare

Theme #5: Leadership and Civic Engagement

Were you overwhelmed by all of the opportunities you saw at the Involvement Fair or during Community Commitment? Everyone has told you to get involved, but what will that look like for you? You may want to go to sessions in this theme to think about what your leadership skills and styles look like. Then, you can think about what kinds of issues on campus or in the community matter to you, and commit yourself to those opportunities.

2014 sessions to consider:

  • Your Buckeye Leadership Plan
  • Service in Your First Year Experience
  • Becoming a Nut
  • How to Avoid Poverty Tourism

Theme #6: Buckeye Book Community

All members of the class of 2018 read The Glass Castle this summer…what a great conversation starter at a table in Kennedy Commons! Maybe you and your newfound friend will decide to attend one of the many Success Series sessions where you will have the chance to talk about the themes of the book. The book’s author, Jeannette Walls, comes to campus on September 23!

2014 sessions to consider:

  • An Evening with Jeannette Walls
  • A Different Look at The Glass Castle
  • Pastries and Perspective: The Glass Castle
  • What’s in a question? Research questions and The Glass Castle

Are you ready to check out these themes? Visit and register for your Peer Leader workshop before September 12 to learn more about the First Year Success Series from upperclass students!

10 People You May Meet at Ohio State

It’s Day 10 of orientation, which means I’m here to share with you the 10 people you may meet at Ohio State. Here we go!

1. The Campus Celebrity

This student typically has a very memorable personality and has likely been committed to a student organization since stepping on campus for the first time. This student says “hi” to anyone and everyone on campus (celebrities know many people!). The campus celebrity could be motivation for you to become involved on campus…or campus celebrities could make you late for everything because of the number of people they stop to talk to along the way.


2. The Over-Involved Student

There are nearly 1,000 student organizations on campus and there can be students who just want to be part of everything. Finding them can be a gift and a curse: a gift because you will have the opportunity to participate in things you could probably never imagine; a curse because you will probably get invited to everything! The key to campus involvement is balancing commitments (co-curricular, academic, social, etc.).


3. The Athlete

Not all athletes are the same. There are so many sports that are offered on campus, and there could be an athlete in your hallway or even your room. Some students meet an athlete that they become particularly close with because athletes can offer a unique campus perspective…the athlete is just one more person who adds to your well-rounded Ohio State experience.


4. The Thrifter

Saving money is something that many college students (and parents) love to do! Find a friend at Ohio State who loves to thrift shop – this person usually know where to go to save a couple dollars.


5. The Classmate Soulmate

Students who can connect with a peer in a difficult class are more likely to achieve success. The Classmate Soulmate can help you more solidly comprehend the course material through things like review sessions and scheduled study times. Connecting with your peers around academics could be the difference between getting an A in a class instead of a C (or worse!)…and those helpful peers could become good friends along the way!


6. The Ultimate Organizer

Similar to the Classmate Soulmate, Ultimate Organizers prove that no one can be too organized. From their socks down to the color of the pen they use for each class, they fully embody the word organization. The greatest benefit to you in befriending an Ultimate Organizer is that you’ll know exactly where to be, when to be there, and what you need to take with you.


7. Cultural Clarifier

Cultural Clarifiers come from backgrounds different from your own. The diverse student body at Ohio State provides students with opportunities to learn more about unique cultures, customs, and traditions that they may not have known about prior to beginning their college journey. Cultural Clarifiers take pride in their cultural heritage and are excited to share aspects of their heritage with others.


8. The Musician

Everyone should have a friend with a little Mariah Carey in their vocal cords or who can make anyone swoon with a saxophone! Meeting students who are into music or who love to perform helps you to release that inner celebrity that is only heard in the shower at home. Musicians can give great musical insight, and this can be a student who could accompany you to concerts or other music-related events that occur on campus and in Columbus!


9. Mirror Image

Have you ever met someone and after a brief introduction or conversation you instantly thought,

WOW! We basically live the same life.

The Mirror Image is someone great to have around when you need someone who can relate to you! This person usually ends up becoming a best friend because you can spend hours on end talking about life experiences, academics, interests, family and even those unnatural obsessions you have with One Direction or Taylor Swift.


10. The President of BSA (Black Student Association)

Alante’ Ward is the current president of the Black Student Association (hint hint, wink wink). He is a social butterfly who loves to make others laugh and smile. Also, he does a great job at representing a student who embraces his own ethnic culture, while at the same time adding to the overall student culture at Ohio State. I guarantee after one conversation, the rest of your day will be filled with smiles!

Dating Game Host

For Day 11 of orientation on Monday, check out Lexi Fannin’s blog post about the 11 items that should always stay in your room!

8 Great Things About This Blog

Happy New Year, welcome to spring semester, and here’s to our inaugural blog post.

For our devoted passive readers of the FYE-News email you received on a weekly basis from First Year Experience, this blog is our new (and improved!) way of sharing information with you.

If you never realized you were getting a weekly FYE-News email full of insightful, life-altering information, believe me when I say that this is better. Here’s why:

FYE is an office of peopleWe are a staff of seven professionals, one office manager, and two incredible graduate students. A weekly email doesn’t care about you, doesn’t have feelings or opinions, and will never tell you a bad joke…but we do. (How do you make a tissue dance? You put a little boogie in it). Through this blog, you’ll get to know us, as we hope to get to know you. You’ll come to realize that the staff in First Year Experience are invested in the success of first-year students, and we have knowledge to share, advice to dispense, and candy bowls in our office cubicles.

Students helping students. Over 200 upper-class student leaders devote time and energy to supporting and mentoring new students each year. You see them at Orientation, at Convocation, in the classroom, and at many events and programs coordinated by FYE throughout your first year. These students have experience in what you may be experiencing:

  • They fail midterms
  • They’re homesick
  • They struggle with time management
  • They ignore the recommendations for maintaining a healthy lifestyle
  • They have their hearts broken.

But, they persevere. They learn a lesson (or two). They have tremendous success. They’ll share their stories with you in this blog, and you can learn a lesson (or two) from their experiences.

Real time. Real talk. A formatted weekly email is typically drafted, edited, and scheduled to go out 4-5 days before it hits inboxes (true story). A blog lets us be timely and relevant with our thoughts and ideas when something BIG happens on campus. And you, in turn, can share with us your comments about those (or other) thoughts and ideas.

This thing called the Internet. Ohio State makes accessible to students, faculty, and staff anytime, anywhere (with Internet access) from laptops, desktops, portable devices. You can comment on a post at three in the morning when I’m sleeping (wait, you should also be sleeping…see recommendations for maintaining a healthy lifestyle), and each of our blog contributors can create posts through their own preferred method of submission.

Comments on comments on comments. We want to hear from you. We want you to talk to each other. This is a public forum, but it’s also a safe space…we hope that you’ll engage in respectful and reflective ways.

Stuff you care about. Let’s say we have a blog post about living in Columbus and taking advantage of all this city has to offer (spoiler alert: it’s happening). You grew up in Columbus, and you could practically write that post in your sleep…with your toes…while playing the accordion. (How’s that mental image working out for you?) Okay, so that blog post probably won’t be interesting, but you can search this blog for terms, categories, or tags about things you would find interesting. And, if you’re coming up empty, shoot us a comment and we’ll dedicate our next post to you.


Memes. GIFs. YouTube. Soundcloud. Oh, the media frenzy! We get it: Buzzfeed is awesome. We like it, too. They’ve got a good thing going, and we’re not ashamed to say that we’re going to try to emulate its approach to sharing information…to an extent. I’m calling it now: we’ll probably never post anything like 22 Lies Disney Told About Hair.

I will, however, include this music video of my favorite song from 1996 (the year I started college at Ohio State):


Look back, plan ahead. I kept a diary in elementary school. The steamiest entry was circa February 1988, when I was in fourth grade and the boy I had a crush on picked me to play the tambourine next in music class. Irrelevant is the fact that our teacher told him he had to pick a girl and that I was one of only two girls left who hadn’t been picked; the point is, I was convinced that I was going to have an extra special Valentine in my cardboard box the following week (nope, didn’t happen).

This blog can be your elementary school diary. Read through these posts in May and remember where you were at this moment, how you felt about beginning your second semester at Ohio State. Think about how you’re different now compared to when you started here in August. Use these posts to jar your memory, to help you set goals for the future, and have a snapshot of one of the most transforming years of your life.


Until next time…