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A not-so-traditional New Student Week experience

I can remember just a few short months ago, after committing to Carleton, hiding under my covers at 2 in the morning and looking up “Carleton”— I wanted to know everything about this place I would soon call home. After a few moments of fear that I was going to some university in Canada with a student body population 15 times that of what I thought I had signed up for, I came across the “Carleton College” YouTube page. I spent the next few hours watching videos of each new incoming class moving in and slowly began to envision what my first days here would be like. I was sure, just like every video I had seen, it would be filled with new friends, memorable final moments with my family and the start of meaningful traditions. 

 The reality of New Student Week for the Class of 2024 was drastically different from what I envisioned that night—it brought about challenges both expected and unexpected and pushed us to re-evaluate what we hoped for from our Carleton experience.

 For the class of 2024, New Student Week began on a rainy Tuesday. As we, with the help of NSW leaders, hurled our bags into our rooms, I was reminded of the words of former CSA president Anesu Masakura from his speech on move-in day for the class of 2023. He said, “three short years ago, I arrived from Zimbabwe weighed down by suitcases, expectations, and an overwhelming fear of the unknown.” As I walked into my room—into my future—I too felt weighed down by fears of not only what was to come in the next four years, but more presently this term. For the Class of 2024, the fear of the unknown that all students feel as they embark on this new journey has taken on a greater depth of meaning. 

 Much of New Student Week was spent in our rooms. While waiting for the first round of COVID test results to come back, we were to keep to our rooms with the exception of eating meals which (weather permitting) could be done outside. 

Some students passed the time by attending the Zoom sessions, others simply kept them running in the background while they watched TV. 

All yearned for the opportunity to meet new people. If you were lucky to be placed in a New Student Week group with students you connected with, meals became a great opportunity to hang out and get to know those living closest to you. If not, they were filled with awkward silence.

 There is a lot to complain about with regards to New Student Week, but nothing quite as worthy as the food. While every meal came up short in quantity, there are a few meals that stand out (I would say they take the cake, but that would be insensitive). One meal we received a single meatball for dinner. Twice, for breakfast we received packets of read- to-make oats without a mechanism to heat up water. Needless to say, the food this last week has been a major upgrade from New Student Week.

 Yet, even with the food being lackluster and the opportunities to connect with fellow Carls being scarce, there was plenty to enjoy about NSW:

  First, COVID flipped the power balance between dorms. Because of the Super Lounge, Goodhue (what I have come to understand is the distant, often forgotten, cousin of the other dorms) became the best place to stay and have friends over. Second, getting to watch all the seminars from the comfort of our bed was great at times. Third, the thermoses all of us got from the sustainability office are AMAZING. Fourth, meeting new people without the support system of college organized events is inevitable; a virtual NSW pushed the Class of 2024 to do that a little earlier than most classes, but helped us develop that skill nonetheless. Fifth, virtual Zoom sessions meant that some kids could jump out of bed 5 minutes before and still be ready to go. Sixth, in the beginning I said that one of the things I envisioned my first few days of college would be memorable final memories with my family. Family was of course not allowed into the dorms so final goodbyes were done by the car. For me that meant saying goodbye to my dad in front of the Rec while the rain beat down on us and then proceeding to walk toward Goodhue as he walked towards the car. 

This hardly seems like a happy way to say goodbye, but as a lifelong Bollywood fan, saying goodbye in the rain and then walking away is the most memorable (and movie-like) way to do it.

Ultimately New Student Week for the class of 2024 was emblematic of what we can expect from Carleton and college as a whole—it will be unpredictable, challenging and at times uncomfortable, but it will push us to develop skills and mindsets that will continue to serve us, even as the clouds fade. 

The fears we felt coming to college—fears of the unknown, fears of loneliness and fears of a lack of support—are not unique to the Class of 2024. 

While we likely experienced them to a greater extent than most other classes, my extensive studies of New Student Weeks of the past has taught me that the class of 2024 is not alone in feeling and overcoming these fears. As much as it is hard to feel it right now, we are not alone. New Student Week was a whirlwind of emotions, and chances are the coming weeks won’t be much different, but even in the face of tumultuous times we are fortunate to be a part of a community committed to supporting one another and forging lifelong friendships (even if they weren’t built during your first week here). 

We are still Carls.

P.S. If you’re an upperclassman and you see a freshman, come say hi!  

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