As the college move in date approaches quickly, my daughter and I continue to go through her dorm check off list daily and preparing for this exciting milestone. Before we got checklist going, we both attended the Frosh Orientation about a month ago. Once the two day orientation was over, my daughter and I came back home with a plan to get her moved in and most important ideas on how I would be able to support her in the first semester of college. It truly put me bit more at ease, and it was worth the five hour drive, hotel stay and fees paid.
The orientation was broken down into segments where students went into groups on their own and met other incoming freshmen. During those segments, parents were able to engage with staff and ask questions in every session, meet attending students who shared their freshmen experience, talk to parents who had the same fears I did as well as parents who had already experienced this before. All of the segments were resourceful in one way or another.
Unfortunately, not all parents there had the same experience, and I can say this first hand after meeting Hector on the begining part of day two. Hector was a father who also made the five hour drive from Commerce, CA to San Jose, CA with his daughter. He took a few days off work and had to come alone because his wife had just started a new job and could not get the day off. His daughter is a first generation college student. Hector only speaks and understands Spanish. He approached me and asked me if I spoke Spanish, and I replied that I did. I quickly realized he had been present and missing out on all the parent conversations, tips, advice, and helpful information from the prior day since there were no translators. He asked if he could join me for the rest of parent part of the day so that I could translate for him. I did that and more. I provided him with information I had taken notes on, luckily I had tons of notes and was happy to share. At the end of the day, he expressed his gratitude with watery eyes.
That evening, I thought about him and how I would have felt to be him — sending my daughter away to college without knowing much about resources, support, regulations, meal plans, safety, health services, dorm life, programs, activities, and The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). It made me very sad. But after feeling sad, I was upset!
Parent orientations can cost anywhere from $80-$150 to attend, and this does not include travel and time off work. To attend something you can’t understand and partake in is especially frustrating for parents like Hector who want to be involved but don’t speak English.
Some schools have had bilingual orientation such as Cal State Los Angeles. Others recently started bilingual parent orientations such as Sonoma State University, and others such as Cal State Long Beach have them only on particular days. All colleges and universities should be able to provide a translator or sessions in other languages as standard practice on any given day, especially if they have students from immigrant families. The information shared at the orientation is extremely valuable, and all parents and caregivers should be able to understand what is going on as their student embarks on the college experience.
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