Despite COVID-19 arrival testing and indoor mask mandates, a relatively normal orientation week for the Class of 2025 began on Sept. 2, complete with a student organizations fair and an illumination ceremony.
Since the Class of 2024 had a completely virtual orientation last September, and did not get the traditional “O-week” activities, Student Life provided some orientation opportunities for the Class of 2024, such as Discover Davis and Meet Medford, the student organizations fair and an illumination ceremony.
Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarríbar said that orientation events help new students meet each other and become accustomed to life on campus, which is still valuable for the Class of 2024.
“These activities not only help first year students become familiar with their surroundings but also give them an opportunity to get to know each other,” Lizarríbar wrote in an email to the Daily. “While most Tufts students were on campus all of last year and most sophomores are now very familiar with the university, [Student Life] think[s] sophomores in particular deserve some special attention and the chance to bond as a class given the difficult circumstances they faced last year.”
Claire Bolash, TCU Senate education committee chair, said that she remembers very little from the virtual orientation events.
“I feel that most of what I have learned about Tufts has come from on-campus experiences in the last year,” Bolash, a sophomore, wrote in an email to the Daily. “Standout events from virtual orientation include watching the matriculation video with my family at home and attending the TCU introductory meeting. I believe there was a virtual illumination ceremony but I personally did not attend and no one I know did either.”
Bolash added that in-person orientation events likely would have made the transition to college easier for her.
“It took a very long time to feel acclimated to Tufts,” Bolash said. “I strongly believe an in-person orientation would have helped connect students in the absence of in-person classes [and] club meetings and would have changed the amount of time it took to feel comfortable with the campus.”
Lizarríbar explained that Student Life partnered with TCU Senate, members of the sophomore class and other student leaders to plan in-person events for the Class of 2024, despite not offering a full in-person recreation of first-year orientation. She added that Student Life is seeking input from sophomore students to develop more programming.
“We are excited to reinstitute our special Illumination ceremony, an annual tradition at Tufts that allows the entire class to be together at the start of their college career,” Lizarríbar said. “This year we’ll have two ceremonies, one for first-year students and another, separate ceremony one week later for sophomores to belatedly celebrate their entrance into the Tufts community since their ceremony was virtual last year.”
Bolash said she was excited for the illumination ceremony because it is a Tufts tradition that is relevant senior year, when the ceremony is held again.
Lizarríbar said that student life is also offering activities that would have been impossible to consider last year, such as the comedy night event.
“We have a few trips planned to popular local destinations, including visits to Davis Square and the Fenway area, where [the Class of 2024] can enjoy some of the food, shopping, and entertainment options available just a few minutes from campus,” she said. “We’re also headed to the Chevalier Theater in Medford for a comedy night with the Tufts Stand Up Comedy Collective, which will open for a surprise guest comedian.”
Joseph Golia, director of the Office of Campus Life, who worked with a team of students and faculty to coordinate First Year Student Orientation, said that COVID-19 required his team to find creative new ways to welcome first-year students to the Tufts community last year.
“I’m filled with gratitude at how the community came together and demonstrated so much resilience despite the many challenges our students dealt with last year,” Golia wrote in an email to the Daily. “We are thrilled to be beginning the academic year in person and returning to many of the meaningful and fun traditions that make being on campus such a special experience at Tufts!”