A first-year student’s guide to navigating Lehigh


As a first-year student you are just days away from stepping foot onto the campus you will call home for the next four years. You are just days away from the start of “the rest of your life.”

This is a time filled with excitement and nervous jitters. However, if you truly set out to make the most of your orientation and first few weeks at Lehigh, you’ll find yourself feeling at home on campus in no time.

“During orientation, I want students to learn about Lehigh and about their college as well as understand what it means to be a student here,” said Assistant Director of Orientation & First Year Experience Kara Gensamer, “I think that means thinking about who they want to be while here at Lehigh… I would encourage them to think about being a student, making a connections, and also being a community member.”

Being a Student

This should be the easy part, right? You’ve been a student your entire life. You go to class, you take the notes, you study, you take the test. Simple.

University life is a little bit different.

Being a student at Lehigh means more than just showing up to class. It means going the extra mile to get to know your professors. It means wearing brown and white to every lecture during Lehigh-Lafayette week. It means being an active community member, and knowing your role as a Lehigh student extends far beyond the reach of the classroom.

Being a student at Lehigh means making connections and being a member of community far larger than any you’ve been a part of to date.

Making Connections

You’ll play a million name games, but will you remember any of them? What about the details people share about themselves? Will you actually get to know the faculty member facilitating the lecture you’re attending? You should.

“We hope that students feel connected on campus, know the resources and opportunities available, and encourage them to think intentionally about their decisions,” said Stefanie Burke, Lehigh’s new assistant dean and director of first-year experience, “We also encourage them to think intentionally about the connections they make, and begin to discover what they need to be successful, whatever success might look like for that individual student.”

The faculty members you’ll come across are devoted to their teaching and many have done incredible research. This is your opportunity to get involved and see what they have to teach you. Establishing relationships with faculty and staff throughout your collegiate career will only benefit you in the long run as you create a strong network for yourself. Start this process as soon as you come to campus.

Aside from faculty and staff, get to know the students in your orientation group, your EvoLUtion seminar, and definitely the students living on your hall. Getting to know your peers and establishing relationships will only remind you why you chose Lehigh to begin with.

With such a large, diverse community, and with the class of 2019 being one the most diverse Lehigh has ever seen, you’ll learn so much more than simply what you can read in textbooks or hear about in lectures. Get to know people, and you might be surprised by what you learn about yourself.

“No one knows anyone here, and it’s a nice fresh start to an amazing four years,” said orientation leader Ceara Tomaino, ’17, “No matter how nervous you are or how uncomfortable you feel I guarantee you other students do as well, so just embrace the feeling and bond with others about it. Who knows, that first person you talk to might be your best friend for the next four years!”

During orientation you’ll meet your Orientation Leader, one of 77 trained students who are passionate about ensuring your transition to life at Lehigh is smooth and comfortable.

“Take advantage of orientation and your OL,” said Orientation Leader Sara Lampert, ’18. “This program exists to help you make the transition through college, and you should not be afraid to ask questions and be excited about the wonderful things ahead of you!”

One of the most important connections you’ll make as a first-year? Your Gryphon.

In ancient mythology, Gryphons are strong beasts that serve as protectors of precious treasures.

At Lehigh, Gryphons are responsible, experienced students who commit to ensuring the safety and positive experience of Lehigh’s most precious treasures: its students.

However, your Gryphon serves the purpose of more than just a rule-enforcer. Gryphons represent an in-house student resource with what is essentially an open door policy.

Gryphons are there to ensure that all students are getting the most of their residential and communal experiences at Lehigh.

“Students might be nervous and it’s good to have a student explain ‘these are some things that I did that were helpful and things that my friends did’ to help first-year students be successful at Lehigh” Gensamer said when discussing the value of forming bonds with orientation leaders and Gryphons.

Take the time to get to know your Gryphon and you’ll find someone who has experienced what you’re going through and is there to help if you need to talk, someone who knows Lehigh like the back of his hand and is ready to point you in the right direction. You’ll find a useful resource, and likely, an even better friend.

Being a Community Member

It doesn’t take long to fall in love with the beauty that is Lehigh’s campus. However, take the time in your first few days on campus to learn where things are.

Go for walks in your spare time. Wander to the lookout and take in the view. Check your class schedule and learn where all your classes are, that way you wont have to stress once campus is full to find your academic buildings and classrooms. You’ll already know and will arrive on time stress-free.

Familiarize yourself, not only with specific buildings, but with the purposes they serve. Which library best suits your study habits? Where is the center for academic success, or the writing center if you ever need help with a paper? Sample a variety of campus dining options, rather than simply what is closest to your dorm. Visit new friends in other dorms and invite others to yours.

Don’t just stop there. Take the time to look into the countless opportunities afforded to you at Lehigh. Attend the club fair and meet other students who share your interests or passions. With over 150 student-run clubs and organizations you are bound to find something that interests you. Maybe new passions await. If nothing else, stroll down to the front lawn with your hall mates, put your name on all of the email lists and eat the free pizza. Getting involved on campus is a huge step in becoming an active member of the Lehigh community, and will allow you to contribute to this, and hopefully other, communities beyond the university.

“Lehigh has a very strong support network and we’re very excited that the first-year students are here and if they take advantage of the opportunities that are provided to them I think they’re going to have a great time,” Gensamer said, “We want to give (students) the sense that the upperclassmen, the faculty, the staff are so excited to have them on campus, and just taking that first step of reaching out to someone is super important.”

You’ll find that once you’ve explored campus, it seems a little smaller, and once you’ve gotten involved, it feels a lot more like home. Welcome to Lehigh, 2019. It’s time to make the most of it.

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