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From Freshman to Peer Captain: Navigating Confidence and Connection

From Freshman to Peer Captain: Navigating Confidence and Connection

Vanika Sok is currently attending Lafayette College, class of 2026.

Upon my return to Lafayette College as a sophomore, I felt much more confident compared to when I first arrived last year. 

Looking back at my arrival to Lafayette College freshman year, I remember how excited and overwhelmed I felt on my first day. About 30 people from the International Student Association (ISA) welcomed me with colorful signs and echoing cheers. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming, filled with joy and anticipation of what was to come.

Although I was nervous to begin this new chapter of my life, I was ready to experience something new. I began my week of International Orientation, where I received ongoing support and encouragement from my team and orientation leaders.

Throughout my freshman year, I leaned on my ISA community to navigate the ups and downs that appeared academically and socially. They were why my school was beginning to feel like home. When getting my plans together for the upcoming summer, I was thrilled to hear that I had been selected as one of the six peer captains for the International Orientation for the Class of 2027. At first, I was doubtful that I had the skills and abilities to be a peer leader. I questioned why I had put myself in a situation where I had to interact with so many new people. I thought to myself, “This is really outside my comfort zone. I can’t do this. I am not extroverted.” However, I decided that this was an opportunity to become more involved on campus and get to know more people.

Initially, I met the international incoming freshmen individually on Zoom. To prepare for this, I imagined what I would say to my freshman self —someone who was lost, curious about everything in the USA, and in need of advice on almost everything having to do with college and moving away from home. I put myself in their shoes and did my best to help them feel prepared for college.

Little did I know that soon I would be standing with a “Welcome Home” sign in my hands, cheering for the arrival of all of the new international students, just like the previous peer captions and ISA community had done for me. I felt immense pride in how far they had come and how brave they were to leave home and go to college internationally. 

When International Orientation week had started, I was matched with a group of international students. I was so nervous to lead a group of individuals I had only just met. However, as we got to know each other, we all started to feel comfortable sharing about ourselves and working together as a team. We collaborated and supported each other through scavenger hunts, Kahoot quizzes, Q&A sessions, group tournaments, and fun games.

I developed a deep bond with all the members of my team. Throughout our time together, they made me realize that it’s one’s environment that shapes who we are. In a safe environment, I don’t have to act or pretend to be someone I’m not; I can be my most authentic self. With this team, I found myself gaining more confidence in where I was and who I was with. This allowed me to be the best version of myself and guide others in navigating their own college experience. 

From my freshmen year to now, I have realized that what makes the college experience enjoyable and memorable is the friends you make along the way. It’s the memories you create, the laughs you share with one another, and the memories I’ll hold dear in for decades after I graduate. Thanks to the ongoing support of my college community, I truly can not wait for what’s to come.