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New Student Week orientation adapts to COVID-19

New Student Week (NSW) 2020 will commence on Tuesday, September 8, with the first-year students who will be on campus during Fall Term scheduled to arrive one to two days before the majority of the student body. First-year orientation activities will run through Sunday, September 13, following Carleton’s conventional NSW timeline, but orientation events will look quite different than in past years due to COVID-19.

“New Student Week still aims to equip students with the tools they need to successfully transition to Carleton and provide space for them to build community,” said Miiko Taylor, the Assistant Director of Student Activities and New Student Orientation. “The biggest difference this year will be the increase of online components of New Student Week.”

Traditionally, day one of orientation kicks off with the all first-year frisbee toss on the Bald Spot, after which each student is charged with collecting a stranger’s frisbee and (ideally) returning it later in the week or term. However, in compliance with state and federal standards regarding COVID-19, NSW 2020 will not include any such events that involve large gatherings.

“This will be a very noticeable shift from previous years that will change how we programmatically structure New Student Week,” said Taylor in written correspondence. “What will remain the same is the information the College provides to prepare new students for success.”

Despite the challenges associated with transitioning to college during a pandemic, Tae Bush, an incoming first-year student, said that coming to Carleton this fall “has been a ray of hope.” She said, “I’ve always looked forward to the college experience, and I think that the people I’ve met and the staff members that I’ve interacted with have made me feel a lot more comfortable about coming to Carleton amidst this.”

Bush is active on social media and has found the Class of 2024 to be very active on WhatsApp. She engages in a class-wide group chat, dorm chats, and a chat for Black students, and has been communicating remotely with other Posse Scholars whom she is looking forward to meeting in person. “All the students I’ve interacted with seem to have the same views as me, and they’re very serious about health concerns, so that helps,” she said.

Elijah Mustillo, another first-year student, is still debating whether he will come to campus or start the year online. “I’m waiting to get my schedule to see how many online classes I have and how many in person classes I have,” he said. “I don’t feel like it would be worth it to go and then basically Zoom from the dorm room.” According to the student FAQs page, Carleton has structured registration to prioritize first-year enrollment in at least one in-person course.

“There’s obviously the benefit of getting to be in new place, when I think most of us have been stuck in our house for a long time,” Mustillo said. “And then I want the things that the college experience provides that aren’t classes – like more freedom and making friends and things like that. But I also struggle with not necessarily wanting to be a part of this kind of wacky experiment that the whole country is participating in right now.”

“Everything about the world right now feels kind of out of control, so sometimes I feel like it’s a little bit silly to be trying to go on with life – like going to college and things like that – when maybe we should just be sitting it out until it’s a little safer for the common good,” said Mustillo.

Carleton’s planning for remote and in-person orientation events will continue through the rest of August.

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