Orientation week has taken a different shape, as incoming freshman are introduced to North Campus virtually, or while social distancing and wearing masks.

Ben Parker / Assistant Photography Editor

Orientation week has taken a different shape, as incoming freshman are introduced to North Campus virtually, or while social distancing and wearing masks.

September 9, 2020

First-Year Students Reflect on All-Online Orientation

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Every September, thousands of new students arrive on campus with little idea of what the year has in store. This year was no different, even with the looming threat of COVID-19 hanging over the University.

Like previous years, orientation meetings provided students with relevant information and a group of peers to meet –– this time, however, it was all virtual. Formerly in-person orientation week events were traded for Zoom meetings and online workshops. This change, however, yielded mixed feelings from this year’s first-year students.

Madeleine Racciatti ’24 found her major-specific Zoom meeting useful. However, she described the online events as “impersonal,” and expressed disappointment in orientation’s social aspects.

“It’s really hard to meet people as a freshman this year, especially through online stuff,” Racciatti said. “I’d say that it was definitely a letdown, but I’m not really sure how they could have done it any better.”

Michael Bai ’24 agreed, expressing disappointment in the virtually-based nature of orientation, but he found it effective enough given the circumstances.

“It was a drop in quality because we can’t be in person, and not everyone has the same technology available,” Bai said.

However, other first-year students were more positive about orientation.

Riya Yerramilli ’24 appreciated her group’s campus tour, where she finally met her new online friends in person. She also enjoyed the “speed-friending” orientation event, where individual students were given two minutes to get to know each other through Zoom.

Orientation leaders also weighed in on the unprecedented experience of the first-year students.

Valerie Hu ’23, an orientation leader for sophomore transfers, agreed that Zoom meetings aren’t the most socially lucrative venues.

“It’s a little bit harder to have one on one conversations, because everyone is together in this big room and only one person can talk at a time,” Hu said.

Hu took initiative in organizing many events for her group, including an online cardio session. Other orientation leaders brought their students on walking tours and other socially distanced events.

This semester, freshmen bear the pressure of a new university life alongside the ongoing pandemic. Concerns about safety and social life exist in tandem.

“You can only control your actions, and it’s really hard to control other people’s actions, but you have to rely on other people’s actions to reach a certain outcome,” Yerramilli said. She hopes that her peers will be responsible, and she looks forward to a meaningful first semester.

Mostly, though, first-year students were grateful for the opportunity to come to campus.

“I still felt welcomed, in a sense,” Bai told The Sun. “I’m really glad that Cornell has made the decision to allow students on campus.”