I refer to the letter Respect Freshmen, too by Malaysian in Foreign Land (StarEducation, Aug 21).
I would like to clarify that when I stated that all orientation programmes are similar in my previous letter, I am positively aware that local universities do organise their formal orientation activities similarly to the experience Malaysian in Foreign Land had in his university.
I will share the kind of experience I had when I was studying in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). When I arrived in UKM, seniors were the ones that greeted all freshmen and parents. After registration at our hostel (college), we were equipped with a case full of necessary information we needed for the one-week programme. Then the seniors directed us to our respected rooms and ensured we were happy with our new living spaces.
During the first day of orientation, we were introduced to the seniors whom we addressed as facilitators. We went through proper ice-breaking activities which were all indoor activities. We formed groups of multi-racial members and each group was lead by a facilitator who shared with us about the life in university. We were constantly reminded by the facilitators to be grateful to our parents and not to take things for granted after all our hard work to enter the university.
We were asked to wake up at 5.30 a.m. every day. Before morning exercise, we were given speeches by facilitators who sounded tough and serious. The real challenge throughout the orientation programme was that we needed to be physically fit to jog in the morning and to go through tough activities in the evening. We also had to walk to the library, faculty or main hall to attend seminars or social meetings. We were told the places around the university that we can go and the transportation service available. These facilitators sacrificed their time and energy to guide us throughout the week. They had to be tough to jog along with us too. Every day we would sleep at 1 or 2 a.m. As for the facilitators, we knew some of them never sleep at all just to prepare for the orientation on the next day.
The problems occurred when some freshmen ignored to instructions or show no respect. They overslept, lack of cooperation among the freshmen, did not greet the seniors, forgot to wear their nametags, played truant, etc. Hence seniors will resolve to scolding or humiliating them in front of everyone. The worst punishment would be from facilitators who were in the Palapes (Reserve Officers Training Unit).
I have family member and friends who studied in UM and USM and they never complain about their orientation programmes. Instead, the UM friends and my brother who studied in USM said they were pampered by their seniors throughout their first year in university. Everything were nicely planned and prepared for them, from second-hand textbooks and notes to assisting them in the PTPTN loan applications.
In my opinion, whether it is orientation programme or even regular motivational activities, there are always some participants who are not interested to get involve and often end up labelling the activities as silly. Some of the activities carried out by the seniors might not be as creative as we want it to be. Perhaps when these freshmen become seniors they can reinforce creativity in the orientation programme. It is more proper to show their leadership skills and pro-activeness to change for the better rather than just complaining and painting the wrong pictures to their parents and public about local universities. Let us not forget that orientation programme is run by students themselves.