Members of the class of 2024 — who received a quiet welcome on campus last week — are adjusting to the new normal at the University, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19.
Yale College conducted much of first-year orientation online, including meetings with first-year counselors as well as pre-arrival programs such as FOOT and FOCUS. While new first years typically live on Old Campus, the class of 2024 moved into their suites in their residential colleges. Many students from states that Connecticut has listed as restricted were required to move in without their families. Traditional events for first years, like the opening ceremony, were converted to a virtual format while others like Bulldog Bash did not take place. And due to the 14day quarantine, first years have only been able to meet other members of their residential college in person, typically socially distanced in common spaces.
“Even though things will definitely be different, I’m still very excited,” said Kyle Shin ’24. “I’m meeting lots of new people right now, and I’ve gotten to learn so many great things about them despite masks and social distancing.”
Move-in alone was difficult for many students because of the COVID-19 travel restrictions in Connecticut. Many first years moved in without help from their families — often saying goodbye at the gate of the residential college. Parents could not see their child’s new room or help them unpack on their first day.
Shyla Summers ’24 had to ship most of her items from her home in California to Yale due to the challenges of bringing belongings on airplanes. But her shipment arrived late, and due to her mandated quarantine in Silliman College, she was unable to purchase those items in New Haven.
“My bedding was delayed by a week, so I’m using my suitemate’s blanket, and I don’t have a mattress topper,” she said.
Still, first years are making a concerted effort to meet other students during the pandemic. Many first years have gotten to know one another over socially distanced meals in college courtyards, while others have met by chance while exploring college facilities.
Some first years met one another before arriving on campus during pre-orientation programs, and others made bonds during the quarantine period via sessions with peer liaisons and FroCos. Summers said she enjoyed FOCUS because her leaders organized different activities and breakout rooms that facilitated meeting other first years.
For his part, Shin said his FroCos in Morse College have organized several activities — including an online competition through which students submitted videos and pictures of themselves.
Although students have been able to make friends virtually, most first years have found that many Zoom events lack the engagement of in-person activities. Claire Kang ’24 said she felt like she was not able to be herself over Zoom. Gillian Gold ’24 echoed Kang and stated that she felt that it was often difficult to connect with others online.
“There is an inherent awkwardness to Zoom rather than being together in person,” said Gold.
But even with the pandemic, Yale’s suite system has been able to remain intact, offering first years the chance to interact with others one-on-one and without masks. Most first years are still quarantined with their suitemates and have only been able to bond with first years outside of their housing arrangement via outdoor activities. Suites are not required to socially distance with one another due to their shared common room and bathroom. Yaara Aybar ’24 said she loves the little bonding moments with her suite.
“We’re always laughing, whether it’s having fun designing our common room or playing cards,” she said.
Yale will have a virtual extracurricular bazaar from Friday, Sept. 4, to Sunday, Sept. 6, during which first years can learn about other activities on campus, according to the Yale College Opening Days Calendar.
Sanchita Kedia | firstname.lastname@example.org