Paavani Lella is a freshman biology major.
Harlan Crawford is a freshman politics major.
Earlier this summer, the class of 2024 received the dreaded notification that the fall semester of our freshman year would be officially conducted remotely. We found out we’d only be able to meet our new classmates virtually, and, as orientation drew near, we grew more anxious about not knowing what to expect from starting this new chapter of our lives through a screen. In some ways, we felt we were being deprived of our “freshman year experience” at USF, but we understood that it was responsible of the University to adopt this modality. Thankfully, when our freshman orientation finally arrived, we realized this unprecedented and disappointing semester wouldn’t actually be so bad.
When we logged onto Zoom for the first day of orientation on Saturday, Aug. 15, we were welcomed by Get Oriented (GO) Team leaders who introduced themselves with energy, compassion, and genuine excitement to meet us. While most of our classmates’ faces remained hidden behind black rectangles, GO Team made a strong effort to help us feel more connected by facilitating icebreakers. Despite feeling unable to organically interact with each other in this virtual layout, we as a class began to (ironically) connect on not exactly being enthused to be beginning college virtually.
On the last day of orientation, we were sent out into breakout rooms to explore our individual majors in lieu of being able to excitedly stampede to Kalmanovitz or Lo Schiavo to meet the faculty of our actual departments in person. Getting to learn more about our respective majors and speak with our department chairs and future professors one-on-one was a great and informative experience, even if online.
At the orientation to biology, new students were greeted by our friendly department chair, professor Jennifer Denver, who answered any and all questions on what to expect from the program. We were even given the opportunity to enter breakout rooms so we could ask more specific or personal questions one-on-one.
Similarly, at the orientation to politics, professor Kouslaa Kessler-Mata, who also serves as department chair, expressed her empathy for our situations and determination to make this virtual experience the best it could be. In breakout rooms, students listened to professors’ passion and energy, and many of us felt incredibly excited and ready to work by the session’s end. Students of all disciplines were inspired to meet such committed, involved professors who value their students as whole human beings capable of accomplishing great things.
As the class of 2024 navigates the first-ever remote freshman semester in USF history, we will be able to look back at the memories made during orientation to give us hope. Our freshman experience won’t be what we had expected, and at every step, there will be new challenges that must be handled.
However, at the University of San Francisco, we feel supported and engaged in our community, and ready to succeed. The number of resources we have been provided and the scores of students and faculty who have warmly welcomed us have made us confident that we are now fully a part of the Dons family, even in these distanced times. As the future of USF, the class of 2024 will greet this unique challenge head-on. We’re ready to earn our first college grades, get involved in new organizations, and find out who we truly are — no matter how difficult or different the circumstances.