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Eighty new students get preview of life at Lake Forest

First Connection program eases transition to college.

One. Two. Three. Shoot. That’s the official way to play the popular hand game rock-paper-scissors internationally. And that’s the way First Connection students competed during a round of ice breakers on August 21. Considering the 80 students hail from several different countries – from Bosnia to China to France to Ghana – it was really the only way to play.

First Connection is a program designed for incoming Lake Forest freshmen from underrepresented demographics. Organized by the Office of Intercultural Relations, these students tend to be U.S. ethnic minorities, those who identify as GLBT, first generation students, or international students.

The purpose of the pre-orientation: to enhance cultural awareness and understanding by providing meaningful intercultural information and experiences. Even a topic as seemingly apparent as how to appropriately address a professor becomes important to those students who are unfamiliar with American customs.

The weeklong program also introduces students to the academic expectations and culture of the College. For example, on the first day of First Connection, August 20, students attended a session taught by a College professor that focused on how to be successful academically by avoiding behaviors such as procrastination.

In another session, students were given a reading assignment to prepare for a class discussion. This activity resembled what a college class might be structured like, such as the First-Year Studies course, said Leslie Turner, assistant director of the Office of Intercultural Relations.

All activities were executed in a mixture of small and large group settings with the help of 24 upperclass mentors.

Erin Hoffman, director of the Office of Intercultural Relations, said the program has always experienced high success in helping participants to transition to Lake Forest. She called it a “highlight” for the students and for the Office of Intercultural Relations.

Because another goal of the program is to help students form a social network, First Connection includes other activities such as an afternoon at the beach and a day trip to Chicago to tour cultural neighborhoods.

Afternoon popsicle breaks also gave students a chance to ask each other questions about their cultural differences. One conversation started with, “How do you get your hair to do that?”