O-Week activities help welcome new students

By SOPHIA LIPKIN | September 5, 2019

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COURTESY OF LAURA WADSTEN In a departure from O-Weeks of previous years, students in the Class of 2023 had the opportunity to dine in and explore Baltimore at night.

New students arrived on campus last week and participated in Orientation Week (O-Week) programming, which incorporated several changes this year. 

O-Week activities are designed to help incoming freshmen and transfer students adjust to life at Hopkins. These activities take place over the first few days of the semester before classes officially begin. Programming is centered around First-Year Mentor (FYM) groups, comprised of about 20 students paired with one upperclassman mentor who leads them through all of the events of the week. 

FYM groups serve as a way to acclimate first-years to Hopkins and to introduce them to other students in their year. The upperclassman mentor is meant to act as a peer leader that students can reach out to, beyond just O-Week. 

Many freshmen remarked on how much they appreciated their mentors as well as the other members of their FYM group. FYM Siddharth Krishnan, a sophomore, reflected on the dynamics of his group.

“Initially it was a little awkward between them all because they come from very different backgrounds,” he said.

Freshman Michelle Limpe said that while her group was fairly shy at first, her FYM, sophomore Amal Hayat, helped encourage first-years to connect with each other.

According to some students, Baltimore Day in particular helped to facilitate bonding within the groups. In the past, groups had been given certain activities to do in a neighborhood, such as duckpin bowling or visiting museums and other cultural landmarks, before being bused back to campus. This year, first-years and their mentors were given reservations at a restaurant, and then provided with directions to explore the neighborhood together. Krishnan believes that this was a turning point for his group. 

“While it was an experience for our mentees, it was also an experience for us,” he said. 

For mentors and mentees alike, relationships formed through these groups are meant to continue beyond O-Week as long-lasting connections that shape their undergraduate experiences at Hopkins.

Sophomore Alex Skirvin said he told his mentees the story of how he met his best friends and current roommates through his FYM group during his freshman year. When asked if he saw the same relationships form between his mentees, he was unsure, but elaborated that he still sees them spending time on campus together. 

“It’s important as an FYM to understand that it’s more than an O-Week commitment,” Skirvin said. “Part of your job as a mentor is to be a resource for your mentees, not only during O-Week or freshman year but throughout their time at Hopkins.”

Freshman Melis Dik said that she still texts her mentor occasionally with questions she has about the campus and Baltimore in general, especially the bus system, which she finds confusing.

O-Week extended beyond just Baltimore Day. Students had the opportunity to attend events hosted by their prospective academic departments in addition to the mandatory speaker events. 

Limpe said that many of these events were held in the Ralph S. O’Connor Recreation Center, and several talks occurred immediately after one another, which could be overwhelming and, as a result, unproductive.

“There were some days where we had back-to-back talks, and none of us ended up listening to them,” Limpe said. 

However, freshman Madeline Cheshire thought that the sexual assault and diversity speakers were particularly good at getting the attention of the freshmen.

“The proportion of people on their phones went down during those speakers,” Cheshire said. 

Others agreed that the schedule was demanding, but generally enjoyed the speakers. Dik said, however, that she wishes the schedule had offered free time to explore Hopkins and Baltimore outside of programming. Limpe added that she wished they had started the day later so that the students would have more energy to take advantage of their existing free time. 

“We would be so tired in the mornings,” Limpe said. 

Freshman Sim Low described the schedule as jam-packed, which made it hard to follow.

“It was really hectic and overwhelming,” Low said. “I didn’t get the chance to learn so much about the school as much as I learned I really hate walking around the school.”

Beyond the events hosted by departments and the speakers who offered guidance on academic freedom and honesty, some students found that O-Week provided minimal content about how to prepare for academic life at Hopkins. Limpe suggested a potential reason behind this programming decision.

“I think preparing for academics is something you do more during high school, and then something you just have to plunge yourself into as you begin classes,” Limpe said.

Activities geared toward first-year students continue this weekend, with the Student Involvement Fair on Friday, Sept. 6 from 2-5 p.m. at the Recreation Center, and the Dance Orientation Show on Saturday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. in Shriver Hall.

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