By Emma Ferschweiler
The once-barren campus of the College was alive again with the start of the school's annual Welcome Week for first-year students, occurring from Aug. 26-30. This commemoration was canceled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but was in full effect for 2021. Since they missed out on the traditional experience, sophomores were also given a Welcome Week, which spanned from Aug. 28-29, overlapping the two classes' events.
Students were able to enjoy a wide variety of fun activities including bingo, laser tag, silent disco and a hypnosis show. Freshmen also took part in Zoom and in-person lecture sessions that taught the importance of mindfulness, consent and inclusivity.
Freshman biochemistry major Priyanka Chakrabarti said she enjoyed Welcome Week and the overall environment of the College.
“[Welcome Week]’s a little bit exhausting because there are so many events planned back to back, but overall, it’s a great way to meet new people and gain memories,” Chakrabarti said.
Chakrabarti said she participated in games such as laser tag, growing plants and went to many icebreakers that were held for dorm floors.
“I would love to see events similar to [these] in the school year. It was fun and laid-back and allowed for getting to know each other,” Chakrabarti said.
Many students in the past school year did not have a chance to make these close connections as Covid-19 forced many to attend school virtually. According to the data researcher USAFacts, 65% of households with children reported the use of online school during the pandemic.
With having a Welcome Week on campus, Chakrabarti said she feels more familiar with the College and its environment which she describes as nice and competitive, allowing for one to reach their potential.
“After staying home for so long and having little human interaction for a year, finally seeing people and getting to know them has been amazing,” Chakrabarti said.
Freshman history secondary education major Michael Villanella enjoyed Welcome Week because it was a great introduction to the campus as well as a way to meet people and adjust to his living situation. He partook in the hypnosis show, volleyball tournament and other events but loved the meals and icebreakers the most.
“I would absolutely love to see more stuff like this throughout the year. It was so much easier than having to juggle classes and building a social life within the first few days on campus,” Villanella said.
Villanella said the celebration helped college feel like more than work, and was important in having a sense of normalcy and making connections after a year of isolation.
“I thought the events were great but would have loved to see them a bit more organized, as it was very difficult to get into the more busy events,” Villanella said.
Villanella said over the course of the week he was able to learn messages of open-mindedness, inclusivity and acceptance which he said made him feel safe
Director of the Office of Student Transitions (OST) Lindsay Barndt worked on scheduling the week and the entire transition process for freshmen, transfers and in the case of this year, sophomores. She described Welcome Week as a culmination of an entire summer of outreach initiatives and is supposed to create opportunities for students to feel more comfortable socially and physically on campus.
“It’s a catalyst for starting some friendships, some will be friends with others prior to coming, some will know people from their high school. We did this summer virtual meetups and smaller orientation groups so there was more opportunity to meet other students and feel connected,” Barndt said.
Barndt said over the past two or three years the OST has been trying to normalize feelings that most students have including anxiousness and homesickness. With this goal, Barndt said Welcome Week introduced a new event called “Transition Stories” that gave upperclassmen a chance to talk about their experiences with these emotions.
“All of those things are pieces that every student feels, but if they're not exhibiting anything outwardly they may think they're the only ones that are feeling that,” Barndt said.
Another adaptation Barndt said the OST took was making an optional sophomore Welcome Week which garnered a little under 350 attendees. Barndt said they enhanced some of the already scheduled programs to accommodate this crowd as well as transfer students such as by increasing the number of headphones at silent disco.
“Something that I think all of campus is gonna feel at one point here is the reminder of how important community is and having people to rely on and support you and that was so clear during Welcome Week,” Barndt said.