Let’s face it. Whether or not you want to admit it, college is a time of huge change, and change can be overwhelming. In these overwhelming moments, it is crucial to have someone to lean on for support — someone wise and non-judgemental, who has been through similar experiences and genuinely wants to help. For first-years, a D’Lion can be that person.
The D’Lion organization is a team of upperclassmen who live in first-year residence halls to help new students transition into university life. When my friend, Grace Snyder, told me she was applying to be a D’Lion, I was not surprised at all. With her friendliness and energy, I knew that she was the epitome of what an ideal D’Lion should be. Now, after almost a full semester as a D’Lion, I interviewed Grace on her experiences with the position so far, and how the presence of a D’Lion can positively impact a first-year’s experience on campus.
What exactly is the D’Lion position?
According to Grace, a D’Lion is, at its core, a “friend in the hall.” They act as a social life facilitator, planning events and creating a sense of community and cohesion for their residents. D’Lions are not mandated reporters, like RAs, and they do not hold an academic position, like a first-year fellow. Their sole responsibility is to create a positive social environment. Grace explained that the position is “what you make of it,” and something that you can “take and run with.” She sees it as her personal responsibility to make a first-year community that “everyone should have” by making the dorms feel a bit more like a home away from home.
Why did you choose the job?
Grace decided that she wanted to work for Reslife because she had a close friendship with her own RA her first year of college, and wanted to form that same type of relationship with incoming first-years. As soon as she saw a poster for D’Lion applications, she immediately thought, “that is literally everything I want to be.”
Being able to help out, plan events, and answer any questions about the college experience felt like something she knew she would succeed at. Grace explained that while an RA is someone you go to for what she calls “big girl resources” (aka important student resources), a D’Lion is more of a big sister type of figure. Her residents come to her with questions ranging from concerns about academic honesty, to casual requests to hang out. Grace even has a futon couch in her room that she lets her residents sleep on when they need a safe space and a little bit of company.
What have you learned from being a D’Lion?
A big lesson Grace learned from being a mentor for first-year students is that working with people takes a lot of time and patience. Not everyone is immediately willing to open up with someone, especially during the chaos of starting college, when people can be stressed about the many changes that come from leaving home for the first time. The bond between D’Lion and first-year students is not always instantly formed, and it requires effort to build trust.
What advice would you give to first-years moving in?
Grace’s main advice for starting college is to “take everything you get and run with it.” There is so much out there, both socially and academically, and it is important to not limit yourself to what you are already comfortable doing. Grace recommends to “just roll with the punches.” The learning curve and growing pains of starting college should not be a taboo, as they are something everyone goes through, but one way or another, everyone has a moment where things finally “click.”
Finally, Grace recommends, “If you do nothing else in your college experience, meet all the people you can.” From people in your hall, to friends you meet in classes, to professors, tapping into your human resources is crucial.
What is your favorite story from being a D’Lion?
Grace recalls one interaction that solidified her decision to become a D’Lion. On international student move-in day, one student’s parents came up to Grace’s room, initially thinking she was an RA. These parents took pictures of Grace’s door, name tag, and recorded all her contact information, as Grace explained the role of a D’Lion. These parents immediately expressed gratitude, saying that it was their first time leaving their child so far from home, and they told her that they were “so appreciative that [the University of Rochester] allows people like you to exist in an environment that needs it.” From this moment, Grace understood the unique importance of her position.
Overall, if you are starting off your first year at the University of Rochester and you are, understandably, a bit anxious about what living on campus will be like, it is reassuring to know that people like Grace are here for you. The D’Lion organization exists to make your transition to college as smooth as possible.