How to Survive Orientation

First, if you already feel that you need help surviving orientation, then you need a quick reality check. You are not actually in The Hunger Games, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (though the campus might look similar), or back in your senior year of high school. Let me be the hundredth upon thousandth person to say “Welcome to Lehigh, and welcome to life in college!”

I was recently a college student, so I know what you are thinking. Some of you are terrified, some are excited, and some are still completely numb to all the change that is going on around you. Trust me, at this point you only need to do two things: First, please, shake off that dazed and confused look. Good! Now second, participate in the discussion; it will be the best thing for you.

For some background information about why I should be your reliable source for close to everything related to orientation… My name is Richard Gilbert. I’m a Lehigh alumni from the class of 2012, with a bachelor’s of science in chemical engineering. During my time at Lehigh, I started a club (T.N.T.), I was a gryphon for 5 semesters, and I was involved in learning from, leading, training, and planning the Orientation Program for three years.

What would I change if I could do college all over again? I would have been the person I am today, only sooner.

Four years ago when I was in your shoes. I sat in the back of UC 308 with my hat on, slouching in my seat, and pretending not to pay attention. I was doing everything you might be planning to do. I was trying to act cool, to give off that stoic but silent type persona, and because of that, I missed out on making real connections with some of the fantastic people who were in my Orientation group.

Eventually, I found my way. An entire year later I became what I secretly wanted to be from the first time walked into that classroom: I became an Orientation Leader. I was taught how to voice my thoughts, my ideas, and my passions, which I had always treasured strictly for myself. As it turned out, a lot of people other than me treasured those same thoughts, ideas, and passions too.

Reflecting back on my time at Lehigh, I know I did not do everything perfectly. Some things did not go how I expected or how I wanted, necessarily. Ultimately, I accomplished some amazing things during my time at Lehigh despite running into difficulties along the way. I think I made this campus a better place. Hence my expectation of you, future Lehigh student, is for you to be better than me, to be engaged from the start, awake in the mornings, and attentive in the afternoons. Your voice is the one we want to hear next, so have the courage to speak up.


Richard Gilbert

A.K.A. Captain Lehigh (ask about it)

Richard Gilbert is a graduate of the Class of 2012 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemical Engineering. During his time on campus, he was a co-op student at Sanofi Pasteur, Inc., and co-founded L.U. T.N.T. (Lehigh University Tossing Not Throwing), which won the 2011-2012 Club of the Year. Additionally, he was a Gryphon for five semesters, an Orientation Leader for two incoming classes, and a Orientation Coordinator in his senior year. Most notably, he was the first and only person ever to be an Orientation Coordinator and Gryphon at the same time.


Packing Tips

Some tips for packing:

  1. Read the suggested packing list!  It’s super helpful, can help you remember things you may have forgotten, and also lists some common things that are not allowed in the residence halls.
  2. Don’t think that you have to bring everything on the packing list.  If you don’t iron your clothes, save yourself the time, trouble, and space in your car by leaving the iron at home.  More on this below…
  3. Pack light!  Remember that the majority of you are sharing a room with someone, and all their stuff has to fit too!
  4. Bring things that will make your room feel like home!  For some, that will mean photos and posters, for others, a specific pillow or stuffed animal (yes, it’s college, but that doesn’t mean you have it give it up just yet!).

Gina’s Packing List Commentary

Room Essentials:

Essentials?  I’m not so sure, but a handful of these are some of the most important things you might forget, like hangers or an extra power strip.  The computer seems like a no-brainer, but if you absolutely had to go without one, you could probably do okay just using the library and computer labs.  Looking at the rest of the list, I’d say about half of things you can definitely leave at home.  Unless you’re in the habit of air drying and ironing your clothes, a drying rack, iron, and ironing board are just going to collect dust.  I’d say the same about the alarm clock.  My guess is that most of us use the alarms on our phones.  If you have a habit of snoozing that one, though, perhaps a separate alarm clock wouldn’t be a bad idea.  An Ethernet cord also isn’t a necessity, as campus is almost entirely wireless, but it’s not a bad idea to toss one in a box somewhere just in case.


These things are all spot on.  I really recommend a portable stain remover, too.  Something similar to a Tide-to-Go pen is easy to throw in a backpack and great for unexpected messes.


All of these also make sense, so there’s not much to say here either.  I always bring one of those sit-up arm pillows to make sitting on my bed more comfortable, but that’s a personal preference.  Residents in M&M!  Take note that you’re in the only residence hall without the extra-long beds, so regular Twin sheets will work better for you.  You can buy bedding through Residence Hall Linens.


Again, most of this section is just common sense.  Think about all the toiletries you would pack for vacation, but increase it to the full-size versions instead of the mini ones.  For a toothbrush/toothpaste holder, most people I know just keep them in their shower totes or keep them in a regular cup.  The bathrooms have cubbies, and I just kept my cup with my toothbrush and toothpaste there.  I would also include flip-flops or shower shoes in this section.  They’re a must.


Think about the things you use every day.  These are the items that make sense here.  For anyone who lives close enough to do so conveniently, I suggest packing a little as possible and figuring out what you need during the first few weeks.  When your parents come for families’ weekend, have them bring you more clothes and the things you realize you do want.  Also, note that you seem to magically accumulate more things in your room as the year goes on (Lehigh LOVES giving out t-shirts, and you’ll end up collecting other odds and ends as well).  You’ll want to bring it all home with you, so think about it like a vacation—you need to leave some room for souvenirs!


While honestly everything on this entire list is optional, these are some personal items you won’t need but will likely want.  Some comments on these items:

  • Pack all of your clothes in storage bins and then just keep the bins at Lehigh (most will fit under your bed when the bed is on the higher setting).
  • A free-standing lamp or desk lamp is also a good idea to add some extra light to the room.  Overhead lights aren’t always as bright as you’d like them to be.
  • Bring stuff that will make your room feel like home—a rug, posters, photos of friends and family, etc. will all help you settle in and feel more comfortable in your new room.
  • There are televisions in lounges in every residence hall, so don’t feel obligated to bring your own.
  • Bring a reusable water bottle rather than a case of water.  The fountain water at Lehigh is not only safe to drink, but it actually tastes good!  If you’re absolutely set on filtered water, they make water bottles with built-in filters.

What NOT to Bring:

Please, please, please do not bring microwaves (one of the most common violations).  You are not allowed to have them.  If we notice you moving one in while your family is still here, we will tell you to send it home with them.  If we find it afterward, we have to confiscate it, fine you for having it, and you can get it back next time you are going home to take home with you.  This also applies to all of the other items on the list, so consider that when packing.  It will save you time and room in your car if you don’t bring them, and it will also save you trouble (and money—the fines associated with having these prohibited items are substantial).  For more information about these policies, check out the General Provisions for Student Occupancy.

Below are some thoughts from students about things they wish they had brought, and things they realized they didn’t need.

Ralph Jean-Noel, Class of 2015
Forgot to bring: Art supplies, tools (screwdrivers, wrenches, etc.), and some of my old high school projects that I ended up needing
Should have left at home: A computer monitor (which I barely used), two video game systems (which I had NO time to use), and a table that didn’t go to much use

Jessie Beck, Class of 2013
Forgot to bring: A small (cheap) vacuum cleaner
Should have left at home: A safe for valuable items, computer lock, and a full set of dishes

Nicole Thens, Class of 2015
Forgot to bring: Ziplock bags, outdoor activity items such as frisbees, a glove/baseball, and a beach towel/picnic blanket

Alexandria Kennedy, Class of 2015
Forgot to bring: More extension cords / power strips
Should have left at home: Pens or pencils (they gave out dozens at the different fairs)

Jimil Ataman, Class of 2014
Forgot to bring: 1. A fan 2. Pens (I go through lots of pens!)
Should have left at home: My TV

Carly Smith, Class of 2013
Forgot to bring: A USB flash drive, my notebooks, and travel computer case/sleeve
Should have left at home: My dustpan (just borrowed a vacuum instead) and a USB keyboard attachment for my computer

Sean Lawrence, Class of 2015
Forgot to bring: Hangers, tissues, air freshener
Should have left at home: Printer, lamp, and those sticky things to hang up stuff on the wall

Nevin Sackson, Class of 2014
Forgot to bring: Hangers, snow boots, and an umbrella
Should have left at home: Water bottles, flashlight, and a lamp

Julia Mers, Class of 2012
Forgot to bring: Painters tape, extra big pillows for people to sit on, and a can opener
Should have left at home: My desk lamp (because the bulb got too hot)

About the Author: Gina Mason is a graduate student at Lehigh’s College of Education and the summer intern at the Office of Residence Life.  She started Gryphoning as an undergraduate at Lehigh, and is excited to be the Head Gryphon in Brodhead for the 2012-2013 year.