Habitat for Humanity

Organization: Habitat for Humanity

Name: Billy Kang

Year: 2014

Hometown: Rochester Hills, Michigan

Area of Study: Biomedical Engineering

If there’s anything better than college (and trust me, college is wonderful), it’s college without classes. Of course, I didn’t know that when I signed up for the Habitat Pre-O back in summer 2010 – I pretty much sent in the application on impulse. Regardless, Habitat Pre-O ended up being best start of my college career than I could ever hope for.

At the Inner Harbor

So what is Habitat for Humanity? Long story short, Habitat is an international organization that focuses on building homes for people in need. The organization is rather large, and I suspect many of you have already heard of Habitat in your high schools. They host building projects both in the States and overseas; at Hopkins, the chapter mainly participates on weekend work trips into nearby communities (which is also another great experience).

More specifically, what is the Habitat Pre-Orientation event? This is something that is exclusive to incoming freshmen. For this program, the participants come on campus a week prior to move in and orientation. During this week, we go into neighboring communities (Remington and Sandtown) and coordinate with the local Habitat organization and build houses.

Meeting all the new faces and playing ninja – after the icebreakers.

Why should you do this? First, you move in early. Avoiding the whole mess of move in day was already worth every penny of the registration fee. You cannot truly appreciate what the previous statement means until you witness the lines and the chaos of move in day. Second, you will be doing something great for the community – can’t argue with that. Third, the advantage of Habitat Pre-O is that you’ll be on campus for a whole week prior to move in. Plenty of time to familiarize yourself with the campus before orientation even started. The upperclassmen supervisors will take you to places such as Inner Harbor and Towson Mall. You’ll know what’s up in the area before everyone else. Fourth, the people you’ll meet on this program will most likely become some of your best friends on campus. College can be daunting in terms of the sheer amount of new faces you’ll encounter in the first few days. The pre-o program eases you into college by giving you a small group to work with – a much better alternative than the typical, repetitive orientation conversation: “Hi, how are you? What’s your name and major? Blah blah blah…” Oh, did I mention you will have fun? Above all else, you will enjoy the experience. College without any classes or tests is a dream come true, this pre-o is precisely the chance for you to live a week of this dream. In another word, if you want a pressure free, relaxed and fun start to your college career – this is the program for you.

The pre-o group posing in front of the church. We were nasty from sweating and smelled like vinegar, but no one cares (or at least from the picture). See all the smiles? Yea, that’s us having fun.

Advertisement asides, I want to share a personal story. The first day of my pre-o experience was in a church in Remington. They had a gym that badly needed repair. I guess they decided the gym floor was too dirty (honestly, I think they were just unprepared for us that day) so we ended up with the job of scrubbing the gym floor – with these tiny sponges. It sounds horrible, and it is. But during this time I got to talk to the rest of the people, nothing drives conversation like a bunch of 18 years old pretending (but really, we worked) to scrub floor. Not only did I familiarize myself with the group, I also had a chance to talk to a senior, who helpfully gave me plenty of advice about which classes to take and what clubs to join. Despite our slow progress, we were eventually able to clean the floor up. Thankfully, over the week we moved on to more back breaking jobs like shoveling bricks and mixing cements. But more importantly, we bonded, and there’s no better sense of relieve when you realize you fit in: that there are people you like here – in the end, you made the right choice coming to Hopkins. Make no mistakes, Habitat will make you work. But the bonding time you’ll get with your new classmates is invaluable, and it’s the part of the pre-o that I treasure most.

Cement is hard to mix, but it’s fun.

It may seem like a bold move, to voluntarily come on campus a week before orientation. It may even seem scary for you, I was myself very nervous when my plane landed (my Hopkins experience started at the airport, I shared a cab with Alex, another Habitat Pre-O participant, on the way to campus). But let me assure you – you will have the time of your life. Very few things compare with the feeling you get admiring the backyard you paved that you know will help someone who really needs it. But Habitat Pre-O is a great program in that not only do you get a chance to do great deeds, you get to truly bond with your group – habitat makes the whole process fun. Simply put, the program will make your college career start so much smoother and easier. Regardless if I convinced you that pre-o is an amazing program or not, I’ll give it one last try: the pre-o program is exclusive to freshman. Yes, this means that this is the only time in your life you’ll be able to do this. Sometimes, a leap of faith is what it takes, I took it – and never regretted it since. I just spent the whole entry telling to scream a definitive “yes”, but now as yourself, are you willing to take your leap of faith? Start your college career with something you’ll never forget – sign up for Habitat Pre-O.