New Student Welcome Event to Remember: Orientation Camp

It has been a month since the new academic year began, and the campus is now filled with the voices of students. How will the new Sophians start their campus life and spend their days? This article delves into the history of Sophia University’s new academic year, specifically the residential Orientation Camp (AKA Ori Camp) that was previously organized for incoming students.

What is an Orientation Camp?

Sophia University organizes various events to welcome new students during the week after the enrolment ceremony. For over 50 years, from 1966 to 2019, a two-day and one-night Orientation Camp was organized as part of the program for new students, current students, and faculty. The camp aimed to assist new students in adjusting to student life and was considered the foundation for imparting educational values to new students and supporting them.

The event included not only new students and faculty members but also senior department students, who acted as “helpers.” New students had the opportunity to learn about university life, educational philosophy, departments and classes, course registration, and extracurricular activities through various activities such as self-introductions, discussions with helpers and faculty, games, and more. These activities also allowed them to build friendships with their fellow students. Sophia’s educational spirit of “For Others, With Others” was embodied in the Orientation Camp. It allowed new students to connect with their classmates, senior students, faculty, and staff. The senior students could apply their knowledge to assist the new students.

The first Orientation Camp!

In April 1966, the Student Life Division of the Student Affairs Department and the Freshman Week Executive Committee organized the first Orientation Camp for 1,713 new students in Hakone (*1). The event was carefully prepared by faculty, staff, and current students. Each department had a staggered schedule from the 5th to the 8th of that month. The activities included self-introductions during bus transit, recreation on arrival at the accommodation, lectures by the president and dean of each faculty and department, viewing of the movie “50 Years of Sophia University,” and class-specific meetings (*2), as stated in the report at that time.

Photographs from that time show the intimacy between students and faculty members. According to a survey of new students conducted by the Freshman Week Executive Committee, the event was successful, with a significant number of positive comments such as “this event should continue the following year.”(*3) Yomiuri Shimbun reported on the first event, and in response to the trend of mutual distrust between students and schools brought about by the “Mammothization” of Japanese universities, the paper noted that “Sophia University’s attempt to create a family-like bond is to be commended” (*4). During the late 1960s, the Orientation Camp gained attention both on and off campus due to the growing student movement and increasing number of students.

New students on their way to Lake Ashi, Hakone (April 1966, 1st Orientation Camp)*
Professor William Everett chatting with new students (April 1966, Department of English Studies, Faculty of Foreign Studies 1st Orientation Camp)*
Freshman Week Executive Committee students performing before new students (April 1966, 1st Orientation Camp)*

The future of orientation

Over the years, people had differing views on the Orientation Camp, but it had consistently been a success, particularly with the growth in departments and attendees. Unfortunately, the 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19. Instead, departments offered helpful information to new students through online resources and held virtual meetings on ZOOM. After reviewing the on-campus events, it was decided to discontinue the Orientation Camp and replace it with an Orientation Day (*5) starting in 2023.

During Orientation Day, every department engaged in diverse projects with the assistance of teachers and current student helpers. Freshers mentioned that they made new friends, felt more inspired to learn, acquired more knowledge, and had experiences that were impossible in high school. The tradition of welcoming new students at Sophia is still alive and kicking since the days of Orientation Camp.

Helpers are available to assist new students in making their transition to university life smoother, just as in the Orientation Camp. They are involved in everything from planning and managing the event to facilitating the day’s activities, and they bring new students and the university/department closer together. (Please visit the respective department websites for more information on the day’s activities.)

How will the orientation scene be affected as social conditions and student mentality evolve? We would love everyone reading this article to keep an eye on it.

New students attentively listening to a teacher (April 3, 2023, Department of History, Faculty of Humanities 2023 Orientation Day). Photo by KEIGADO.
A quiz-style event at Bldg. No.10! The ever-popular Sophia jerseys, a.k.a. Sojer., are on the screen (April 3, 2023, 2023 Orientation Day). Photo by KEIGADO.
Campus tour by current students (April 3, 2023, 2023 Orientation Day). Photo by KEIGADO.

(1) 1966 New Student Orientation Camp Report, page 2. According to the report, Tsuneo Arai, who was the Director of the Student Life Division at the time, expressed in an article titled “On Holding the Orientation Camp for New Students” (page 1) that the goal of the event was to revive the distinctive ambiance of the pre-war camps at Sophia University of bringing together new students, current students, faculty members, and staff.
(2) 1966 New Student Orientation Camp Report, pages 14 and 16.
(3) Camp Report (Sophia Times, No. 180, page 2, dated April 15, 1966). According to “Training Camps Popular with New Students, Recruiting Students to Run” and “Freshman Week Closes Unusually Lonely Campus,” on the same page, some students were puzzled by the small number of new students on campus during Freshman Week.
(4) “Professors and New Students Connect Through Comedy” (Yomiuri Shimbun, evening edition, April 9, 1966, page 3, Yomiuri Database Service, accessed April 19, 2023).
(*5) As of 2023, except for a few departments, the program is held in a one- or two-day format.

Photos marked with an asterisk (*) are in the collection of the Sofia Archives.

Sophia University

For Others, With Others