NSO from an International Perspective

During New Student Orientation (NSO), incoming first-years perform over 11,000 combined hours of community service – the equivalent of one person working eight hours a day for more than three years. But for many Colorado College students, the Priddy Experience also marks the start of their transition into college, and it often remains one of their fondest memories and forms some of their closest friendships: “Something about being thrown into the woods with 10 strangers who all feel a little lost really pulls people together,” said one junior who asked not to be named.

Photos by Josh Birndorf

While most NSO excursions are good experiences for students, CC’s international community seems to be the most divided group on the subject; some believe CC should just make trips of exclusively international students. They feel weird about going on trips with other new people when they’ve just barely arrived in the U.S. 

The college does their best to form diverse groups without clustering certain categories of students based on qualifiers like sports teams or cultural backgrounds – the same goes for international students.  Although some foreign students wish this was different, many like being given the chance to bond with non-international peers during their first week at CC.  Junior film and media studies major Fengyi Xu said that her group “was not something I expected, but it was a wonderful surprise.  I think it was a great challenge for me, and it pushed me out of my comfort zone.” 

Like many of the trips, Xu’s Priddy group stayed in Colorado for their orientation.  “We went to Steamboat [Springs] and did trail work for bikers in the mountain,” she said.  Their service work included digging drains down the side of mountain bike trails so that rain wouldn’t flood the dirt roads – a classic CC service project.  “I had done backcountry trips before, but none of them included doing trail work or any kind of community service in general,” said Xu, “So I guess it was new to me.”

“I would say my trip was intense, which I didn’t sign up for during registration.  I was kind of anxious and worried because I didn’t really understand what exactly we were going to do during the trip or know anyone in our group,” said Xu. 

Ultimately, though, the trip was a positive experience for her, as it is for many other students.  “I was exhausted every day, but I did enjoy my time there and also learned a lot.  It wasn’t just how to use a shovel, a chisel, and other tools, though,” she said. “[The community service leader] told us about when and why she started doing this.  She and her husband have been helping people and giving back to the community for so many years and never asked for anything in return.”

Although some international students (who wished to remain anonymous) voiced wishes that their trips were more separated from the rest of the student body, many students like Xu enjoyed the chance to be submerged in a more diverse group.  “If it were not for the trip, I probably would never do something like that, or wouldn’t have the chance to do it.  The trip was very rewarding – I met some wonderful people and became friends with them; I got some useful advice from my trip leaders and also learned some tips on how to survive in the mountains.  It was great to get away from social media, and just talk with friends, make food, and enjoy the beautiful views.” 

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