New Student Orientation adapts to unusual fall 2020 semester

Maddie Margioni, Contributing Writer

The University’s New Student Orientation began differently this year than in the past. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic required many activities to be planned and organized via Zoom. However, this also meant that activities could start earlier for first-years, including the new schedule of events called “14 Days to ’ray!”, a program created specifically for the Class of 2024.

The “14 Days to ’ray!” program began on Aug. 3 and lasted until the start of classes on Aug. 17, two weeks later. The transition from virtual to in-person events commenced on Aug. 12, the date of move-in for first-year students. These virtual events prior to move-in allowed first-years to gain a sense of community and meet students living outside their hall before arriving on campus. 

The virtual events included pre-recorded videos on campus life, as well as Zoom meetings with academic deans, advisers and fellow first-year students. Multiple Zoom sessions were made in order to accommodate the University’s many long-distance attendees on the West Coast and abroad. 

Orientation for the Class of 2024 was bound to be a different experience than any before because of the ongoing pandemic, but New Student Orientation continued planning activities and welcome events, modified to fit the current pandemic.

Orientation Assistant (OA) Emma Stone ’22 described certain changes to orientation. “Orientation was still an amazing experience, despite all of the hurdles with COVID. First-years all arrived at different times, which made the program different but I think that we were still definitely successful in achieving our goal of welcoming them to campus,” Stone said.

Due to the stringent COVID-19 regulations, some activities naturally could not be done, but many were highly adaptable to the new environment and built camaraderie among the new first-years. This included the traditional field games such as an egg run – each student received their own spoon instead of doing hand-offs.

Crucial to New Student Orientation was the ability to have in-person activities, meaning meals, meetings and games were held face-to-face. The name of the game was social distancing, as is the case with all campus life and instruction this fall semester. 

As with University tradition, Orientation concluded with the First-Year Convocation. This was done virtually, and first-years were invited to watch University President John Bravman address the community about the new challenges this year would bring, as well as the joy of the University in welcoming a new class.

“I am so proud of all of my fellow OAs for being thrown right into welcoming first-years with very little plans but still being able to maintain amazing positive energy and organize super fun introductory and bonding experiences for the first-years,” Stone said.

While the Class of 2024 goes into their college career during an uncertain time, New Student Orientation provides a service to prepare them for what they face, and build up the University community in the process. It was clear that, despite the adjustments to orientation, many of the first-years still appreciated the experience.

“I bet orientation was a little different for everyone this year, but the RAs and the OLs were so generous with their time,” Caroline Mahoney ’24 said. “I met so many kids from my building and bonded with the kids in my hall. It definitely helped me in the first week of school.”

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