Kelly Skarzynski said learning her way around the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus was only one benefit of attending a recent two-day summer orientation session.
Skarzynski, a native of Monroe, Conn., was visiting the University for only the second time. The incoming freshman first visited the campus during a swing through the state to check out several colleges.
Skarzynski, 18, chose the University after visiting colleges in Louisiana, Arizona and Florida.
"I really liked the campus and the people are really nice, but I didn't know what to expect, didn't know anyone. I've met a lot of people who have made it comforting, and the tour has been really helpful," said Skarzynski, who plans to pursue a degree related to business or marketing.
Skarzynski is one of about 3,000 new students and parents welcomed to the University each year through orientation sessions and programs.
The Office of Orientation coordinates sessions during the fall, spring and summer semesters.
During orientation, which all incoming freshman must attend, new students meet with an academic advisor, register for classes and can discuss important transition issues. Incoming students also tour the campus, learn about programs and resources and interact with other students through activities such as skits and social events.
One motivational speaker was Thomas Morstead, punter and kickoff specialist for the New Orleans Saints. Drafted in 2009, he was a member of the Saints team that won Super Bowl XLIV in 2010. The "Times-Picayune" has rated Morstead among the top 25 Saints players prior to the start of the team's 2013 training camp.
In addition to new-student orientation, the University offers several sessions tailored for other participants, such as adult learners, parents and transfer students.
About 40 volunteer members of the Student Orientation Staff guide many activities during orientation.
To prepare for Orientation, SOS students participate in an intensive leadership development course, and learn group problem solving, conflict resolution, interpersonal communication, multicultural understanding, program planning and team building.
"The SOS leaders are wonderful, knowledgeable and friendly," said Marcus Webster, 18, an incoming freshman from Alexandria, La., who plans to major in psychology.
The final orientation session before the Fall 2013 semester will be Aug. 22. The registration deadline is Aug. 20.