Earlier this Fall, I was fortunate enough to lead an Alternative Student Breaks (ASB for short) pre-orientation trip. Pre-orientation programs are great ways for incoming students to get to know a few incoming and current students before they even take their first steps on campus as Wildcats. ASB is just one of these programs, and we focus on service learning through active participation and volunteering.

The trip I led visited the Dearborn Animal Shelter in Dearborn, Michigan. With a group of 4 freshmen and my co-leader, we helped out by walking dogs, socializing cats (a fancy way of saying we pet them), and maintenance of their facilities. By the end of our week there, we all had our favorite animals; my co-leader really loved a puppy named Greg, one of my freshman always wanted to play with a cat named Miss Piggy, and I developed a special connection with a dog named Dexter. Dexter is a young pit bull who always looked so calm when inside the animal shelter. However, as soon as you put a leash on him and head outside, his energy was let loose, especially when he noticed other dogs that he could introduce himself to. I eventually learned that he loves to play tug of war, and so every time I walked with him I was sure to bring a toy and play with him; he was extremely strong and I had a lot of fun with Dexter.

Outside of working with animals, my group got to explore Detroit and spend a lot of time getting to know each other. As a leader I tried my best to offer advice about Northwestern and answer their questions. Of course I also tried to facilitate good group dynamics, and with my group that was easy. Despite coming from very different backgrounds, all of us were able to find connections ranging from our love for animals to taste in music. Even though our trip lasted only a week, when we returned we all were good friends and have met up multiple times already to go to football games together or just eat dinner. My goal in these trips is always to ensure that my freshmen are comfortable when coming onto campus; I know that participating in ASB when I first came to Northwestern was a really great way to ease my college transition, and I look forward to Fall every year because I can help incoming students have the same fantastic experience to start off their Northwestern careers.

–Jason Smith

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