Cove Geary

As Yale College welcomes students back to campus, first-year counselors are reimagining how to help Yale’s newest members adjust — from navigating the chaos of virtual classes to meeting friends during a quarantine.

First-year move-in, which began Aug. 24, looked drastically different this year, with movers unpacking boxes and some parents barred from entering their children’s colleges. Campus itself has changed — with common spaces filled with booths for COVID-19 testing and no available seating in dining halls. Students moved immediately into their dorms for mandatory quarantine while waiting for test results, meaning that first years could meet only their suitemates for the first day or two on campus. The usually vibrant courtyards were empty, waiting for students to populate the fields after the initial arrival quarantine. First-year counselors have faced the brunt of these changes as they adjust their normal duties to address the pandemic’s complications. 

“I feel like the FroCo position has been more difficult given the fact that people’s lives and health are at risk — this comes with a lot of physical, emotional, and mental health concerns both from our first years and amongst FroCo teams as well,” Trumbull FroCo Gianna Baez ‘21 wrote in an email to the News. “It’s taken a lot of innovation from my team and FroCos in general in terms of making fun events –– duties and meetings are mostly on Zoom but we have had many successful socially distant games, meetings, etc.“

First-year counselors generally provide academic, social and cultural support to Yale’s newest members. Still, the global pandemic has both complicated and increased the need for these counselors’ support.

FroCos pointed to technological and emotional difficulties as major challenges.

“Zoom fatigue is a real thing and it can sometimes be tough for me to keep focus after having back-to-back online meetings,” said Pierson FroCo Mohammad Makhmudov ’21.

He added that he worried about first years who had to stare at a screen for much of orientation.

Incoming first years like Alex Chun ’24 stated that FroCos have helped him and his peers transition during this time of change.

“Despite the global pandemic and all the complications it causes, my orientation and move-in went surprisingly well, and I firmly believe that the hard work of the Yale staff and FroCos was essential for my smooth transition,” Chun said.

FroCos have also provided support for first years who are not currently on campus, some who will move in soon and others who will complete the semester outside of New Haven.

One such student, Viktor Kagan ’24, will move in sometime in September after the quarantine period is over, but he stated that his first-year counselor has made him feel welcome already.

“I’m moving in after quarantine, but my FroCo has made every effort to make me fit in the group even [though] I’m not on campus. She’s super amazing and makes daily zoom calls great,“ Kagan wrote in an email to the News.

A shared sentiment among first years is how the pandemic actually brought their class and the FroCos closer together.

With nobody else on campus, they have had plenty of time to get to know each other — whether through socially distanced “hellos” across the courtyard or nightly Zoom meetings.

“We cherish every Zoom together, and we often hang out together on the courtyard in person when we can! I think this is largely thanks to Grace’s efforts to give us all enough time on Zoom to talk about ourselves, our day, and our worries; it allows us all to become more familiar with each other,” said Pierson student Vanessa Cheng ’24.

Razel Suansing | razel.suansing@yale.edu