Friends, connections built during SOAR

(From left to right) Bobby Martin, Dillon Green and Emily Irvin enjoy playing foosball and hanging out in UNA’s game room located in the GUC at last year’s SOAR. 

SOAR is important for students to make connections with fellow students and get acclimated with the campus, said Tammy Jacques, director of student engagement.

SOAR stands for student orientation advisment and registration; students come to two-day sessions during certain periods during the summer to get a tour of campus, register for classes, and most importantly, get comfortable with fellow classmates, Jacques said.

“Our main goal is to make (the students) feel as comfortable as possible with each other so that they feel like they have made some friends before coming to UNA,” Jacques said.

SOAR includes several ice-breaking activities between student such as playing at UNA’s game room, participating in the SOAR dance, movies and group games.

Students break into groups, along with a trained SOAR counselor, and will stay in that same group for the two-day period.

Anna Barrera, a new SOAR counselor for the upcoming sessions actually met her current boyfriend.

“It has been one of the best experiences I’ve had at UNA,” she said.

She said she was “freaking out” over being split into random groups and becoming homesick rather quickly.

She said she was instantly attracted to her now boyfriend, when her group merged with another SOAR group.

“It really changed my idea about what college was going to be like,” Barrera said.

Other students who went through SOAR came to UNA excited and with an open mind.

Samantha Fotovich, an upcoming SOAR counselor, was excited about coming to her first SOAR.

“I love SOAR, personally,” she said. “I saw SOAR as an exciting time. It got me excited about UNA. It helped me get to know the campus and the people.”

The SOAR counselors would let the students in their respective groups participate in ice-breaking activities to get them talking and laughing, Fotovich said.

“We tried random little things to spark conversations. Sometimes other SOAR groups would pair up together to further break the ice,” she said.

Fotovich said she is looking forward to her upcoming summer sessions.

“I can’t wait to bond with my SOAR team to help get them acclimated to UNA,” she said.

Some students didn’t have the same positive experience as others.

Lauren Thornton, a communications major at UNA, did not attend the two-day SOAR session, since she transferred from another college. She said the instructors were less concerned about the students becoming friends than the other sessions.

“We were just put into groups based on our majors,” she said. “As far as getting to know the other people, there wasn’t a big emphasis on that.”

Thornton said she was glad she went because she became familiar with the campus, but she was unable to meet future classmates.

“I’m glad I didn’t have to stay overnight,” she said.

Megan Kingsley, a general science education major at UNA,said she also did not have a positive experience at SOAR.

“I really only talked to two people at the time,” she said.

Kingsley said she felt uncomfortable spending the night with a stranger.

“I barely talked to the girl I was roomed with,” she said.

She said she doesn’t talk to any of the people she met at SOAR and felt like the event could have been condensed into one day instead of two.

“It is kind of like forcing people to go do this awful, miserable thing,” she said.

She said she that was her first impression of UNA.

“SOAR almost made me want to go to Northwest Shoals instead,” she said.

While students experience both positive and negative SOAR sessions, the SOAR counselors and faculty try to make the event as painless as possible.

“SOAR is an opportunity for students to really embrace what college life is like, to meet fellow freshman and be able to academically register early,” Jacques said.