By Austin Deal
Campus was busy as students were meeting roommates and figuring out where their classes were. It was easy to tell that UT was open for business. Students’ faces showed a mixture of excitement and apprehension for this new college experience that roughly 4,700 new first-year students were about to embark on. New Student and Family Programs hosts a great event, Welcome Week, to help shake off that anxiety for first-years, began as a way to allow students to learn more about campus while making new friends along the way.
Torch Night starts Welcome Week off as one of the first Tennessee traditions that new students experience. Torch Night, started in 1925, formally welcomes all new students into the campus community. This is one of the coolest traditions that I have ever had the opportunity to participate in. I attended Torch Night this year and it is always an exhilarating experience for me. All students gather together for the first time, and they get to hear the Student Government Association President all the way up to Chancellor Cheek speak. The first time I went through Torch Night, I remember the purpose I felt at the University, getting a tassel, the encouragement to graduate in 4 years. It was great opportunity to bond with my new Big Orange Family. The first event allowed other students to meet others and continue the welcome week events.
Big Orange Friday is the last day of welcome week! Students walking to their classes are immersed within a sea of orange and white – on the streets, in their classes, and even in the administrative offices. After classes come to an end, the Center for Student Engagement puts on two events for the first weekend: the Involvement Fair and VOL Night Long.
To start off the night, the Involvement Fair is held on pedestrian walkway, a central location for all students. The Involvement Fair is a great way for new eager students to find one out of the 400 different organizations that are on campus. Student leaders from each organization lined up at different tables to inform and recruit students to participate in their organization. Walking down pedestrian walkway, there were people handing out flyers to participate in service, philanthropy, academic research organizations on campus. They also gave out some pretty cool stuff such as, water bottles, pizza and Frisbees. As the fair came to an end, everyone started to transition to Vol Night Long.
VOL Night Long is a long standing campus tradition, hosted by the Central Programing Office (a sub division of Student Engagement). It started around 9pm, and ended close to midnight. Each VOL Night Long features a different theme. This year was throwback to childhood: Playground Days. As people line up to get their Vol Cards swiped, the excitement builds. This is an Opt In event, meaning that students agree to allow Student Programs and Services Fee to be used for student programs, gaining admission into all kinds of free or reduced rate activities throughout the semester (you can change your option every semester via MyUTK). Students who choice to not Opt In will have to pay for each event they choose to attend.
Looking at all of the different stations set up, I knew this was going to be fun! The first thing you get after you enter is a t-shirt that has all the VOL Night Long dates on the back of the shirt. Next was the dance stage with disco ball and a DJ. Off to the side was the food table, which had boxes and boxes of pizza, and there was so much free food. A table was dedicated to water, and it is always good to stay hydrated. Rita’s ice was at the next table, and after the food they had fun zones. The first fun zone was being the human foosball, where people strap into the bouncy house that looked like a big foosball table. Students strap themselves in, and take a ball and start to play foosball. When I tried it, I felt like I was about to fall so I stayed away from foosball.
There was also laser tag, and this is my game! I geared up with these fancy laser guns; no one was going to beat me. Choosing the red team, I was bound to win! We all went into this inflatable house to compete. It was dark, music was playing, the stage was set, and the green team was about to lose. After crushing the green team, I had to see what else Vol Night Long had to offer. There was a mock paintball tournament, which was awesome, that included paintball guns that would shoot out little foam balls in an obstacle course that you see at most paintball parks.
As the night came to a close, and the moon shined bright. I was tired! VOL Night Long was another success like every other one, and the involvement fair gave me knowledge to some events and organizations that I did not know about before. I walked back to my residence hall room where I could rest. Walking back to my lobby, I noticed all residences out in the lobby playing a game, so instead of sleeping I went to joined in.
Austin Deal is a senior, majoring in Political Science. In his free time, he is usually headed to Sonic with his friends.