Orientation Ice Breakers

Love them or hate them, icebreakers abound during Orientation week on campus. Delivering giggles and guffaws to dorm lounges near you, the silly questions and absurd challenges work wonders for tempering nerves.

“I’m not a very big fan of most ice breakers, but it’s actually really surprising how much a good one can contribute to establishing initial familiarity and making people more comfortable in the midst of what is otherwise a crazy first day,” Parrish 4th’s Nathaniel Lo ’13 said.

“My favorite ice breakers involves quick would-you-rathers and rapid fire questions,” returning RA Seth Udelson ’13 said. “The answers are always goofy and lead to really crazy, honest conversations. Also, when an opportunity occurs to have more weighty, substantial conversations, I think those are important. Swarthmore is a passionate place, and allowing people to generate their own meaningful relationships through an exchange of ideas is important.”

Sam Buchl ’13, a returning RA whose gig in David Kemp marks his third stint on-the-job, shared some of his favorite games for bringing together new residents.

Verb + Subject Name Game: Everyone stands in a circle. The first person (generally the RA, SAM, or CA) says and “performs” a verb starting with the first letter of their first name and then their name (e.g., I am often “Spinning Sam,” which I’ll say while spinning). The next person does the same thing and then performs the first person’s action and name. The third person performs her verb and name, the second person’s, and the first person’s. The cycle continues until the first person goes around and confirms everyone’s name and action.

“I don’t even try to learn many people’s names without this game,” Buchl said.

What-if: Everyone writes a hypothetical question on their card, e.g., “What if the zombie apocalypse happened tomorrow?” Cards are collected, shuffled, and passed out, so people answer a new question (that is not their own) on the back of the new index card. Cards are then again collected and passed out, and one person begins reading the first question on the card in front of them. Instead of that same person answering the question with the answer on the back of that index card, the individual next to them will answer with their index card’s answer, and then proceed to reading their own question. It’s quite confusing to describe, but the way the questions and answers randomly line up at times can be priceless. A sample “answer” to the question above (on the next card over) might be, “Everyone in Swarthmore would start drinking,” which might actually have originally been the answer to the question, “What if the Inn finally opened?”

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