Breaking the Ice and Bending the Curve: Freshmen Orientation Undergoes COVID Overhaul
by Max Waite ’21
For all incoming students, move-in week and new student orientation can be a very exciting yet nerve-wracking experience. Entering and adjusting to a different environment can be difficult, especially in the times we are in right now; 2020 has proven to be an incredibly strenuous year for people all over the world. Uncertainty fills the air and tensions seem to constantly be running high. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a devastating crisis that has affected and challenged everything about our day-to-day lives. Thus, administrative and student leaders will have to find unusual and creative ways to introduce new students to all college life has to offer for the foreseeable future.
Sean King ’21, Jordan Pagliuca ‘21, and Mia Gheduzzi ‘21 are some of Providence College’s prized orientation leaders tasked with welcoming the Class of 2024 and transfer students to Friartown. We have all grown accustomed to social distancing guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Thus, it should go without saying that all group gatherings normally associated with orientation, including the class photo, convocation, welcome mass, and some group ice-breaker activities had to be removed from the orientation itinerary.
Pagliuca states, “On a day-to-day basis, our staff alternated between running group meetings and volunteering to assist with more logistical tasks such as directing families during move-in, escorting students still in quarantine to lunch/dinner, and overseeing social distancing guidelines in Peterson and Ray.” Some groups even had creative approaches to get together through virtual game nights and Netflix watch parties.
Commenting on the many differences between this year’s orientation versus past years‘, King remarks, “Though all of the group gathering activities were taken away, what stayed was the constant energy, support, and compassion that all the leaders had for their orientation groups, as it shifted into a virtual dynamic and programming.”
Another theme that the COVID-19 pandemic has produced is the fact that nearly everyone is experiencing some level of uncertainty and anxiety. Whether it is emotions or the actual restrictions that we all have to comply with, both orientation leaders and new students have one communal element that everyone can relate with and talk about. Gheduzzi explains, “I feel like we had more in common this year than we could have before because we were all experiencing this type of orientation for the first time together. It was definitely still the same good vibe and energy that always comes with orientation and the beginning of the school year.”
As freshman and new students enter this exciting new chapter of their lives, it is incredibly important and helpful for them to have strong a support systems. Clear and concise instructions help tremendously in providing all students with a smooth transition Pagliuca commented on her concern about lack of engagement between orientation leaders and new students, stating, “I was quickly proven wrong by the energy and enthusiasm of new students who were ready to embrace college life, even in times as different and challenging as these are.”
Despite all of the drastic changes implemented to make orientation possible, some freshmen have voiced their gratitude for their orientation leaders and their amazing efforts to welcome them into the Friar Family. Alex Ohl ‘24 says, “The whole experience was extremely helpful and well-thought-out. The schedule that was sent to each orientation group explicitly outlined what we need to do and was super easy to follow to be in a call when we needed to be.”
Ava Baron ‘24 explains, “Although orientation was really different than how it was supposed to be, I thought our orientation leaders did a great job welcoming us to campus. Whether it would be walking with us to lunch or offering advice, they were great examples of Providence College upperclassmen.”
Despite all of the changes that impacted new student orientation, it is clear that our orientation leaders took everything in stride in order to make new students feel as welcome as possible. Gheduzzi explains, “Orientation this year wasn’t really what anyone expected and even though I was really apprehensive going into it I think we still accomplished the same goal of being a welcoming and supportive resource to the new students.”
King added, “I have nothing but gratitude for the work done by the staff in charge and the orientation coordinators who created the best possible delivery for orientation for the class of 2024. It may not have been similar to what we had experienced our freshman year but this is the new normal for now, and hopefully those students to feel welcome in our Friar Family.”
To King’s point, this is the new normal. We must work together as both new and returning students to make the best of our difficult situation. Be kind to one another, for we are all facing challenges in unprecedented times.