As this summer marks the first in-person orientation sessions to be held in three years, incoming first-year students and Orientation leaders shared a renewed sense of appreciation for the value in introducing students to Grounds, resources and their peers.
Orientation sessions run throughout the duration of the summer, including a total of eight two-day sessions for incoming first years and two one-day sessions for transfer students. The program provides students with various information sessions, class enrollment opportunities and social activities to ensure that new students are equipped with the knowledge they need to succeed at the University.
Saoirse Farrell, senior orientation leader and rising third-year College student, participated in virtual orientation in 2020 and was an Orientation Leader during the virtual sessions last year. While Farrell said virtual orientation was not ideal, the lessons learned from her own virtual orientation — including the importance of active participation — stuck with her when she became orientation leader for the 2021 Orientation Sessions.
During in-person orientation, Farrell said it is easier to see the impact and was shocked to find students talking as if they were long-time friends only to discover they just met the day before.
“It’s so great to see those connections, and I think that what in-person orientation brings is this genuine connection and ability to have a friend before you go into your first week,” Farrell said.
In addition to connecting incoming students with each other, Farrell said she finds in-person orientation provides students with “a taste of what life at U.Va. is like, in a way that you just physically cannot do online.”
In an email statement to The Cavalier Daily, incoming first-year Nursing student Aimee Lu said orientation was a great experience and she enjoyed the free time allotted to exploring Grounds with her fellow orientees.
“I walked with a few other Nursing majors around Grounds and felt like I had been at U.Va. for years,” Lu said.
Songhan Pang, rising first-year College student, said she expected most programming to be geared towards academics, but was pleasantly surprised to learn about so much more, including safety on Grounds and mental health resources.
“It was really great to have those resources presented to me because I know that I would go into the fall semester just a little bit more sure about where I can find things,” Pang said.
By holding information sessions in-person, students are able to physically interact with the facilities, resources and people. Chloe Barbosa, rising first-year College student, found this in-person connection particularly important for gaining a better grasp on the scope of the resources available at the University.
“You may know where each building is [online], but physically walking there, the student interaction and the in-person interaction that a person would have would be disconnected,” Barbosa said.
Karla Gonzalez, Orientation Leader and rising fourth-year College student, said while in-person orientation is beneficial, it can also be daunting for out-of-state students stepping onto Grounds for the first time.
Out-of-state and international students comprise about 30 percent of the student body and may find it difficult to travel to the University in the summer. To combat this, one orientation session is held right before first-year move-in dates to ensure programming is accessible to those traveling a great distance.
An out-of-state student herself, Gonzalez said that she helps break the ice by assigning her orientees partners within their orientation group to talk with throughout the day.
“It's just a great way to relieve that pressure of ‘I don't know anyone because I'm out of state,’” Gonzalez said.
Session K — the final orientation session — will take place on Aug 16 prior to the start of classes on Aug 23.