With the end of the first week of classes, the Class of 2026 reflected on their experiences living away from home, adjusting to academic life on a university campus and participating in the Hopkins orientation and pre-orientation activities.
Last year’s orientation week saw a return to in-person programming after taking place online the year before due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the easing of COVID-19 restrictions allowed students to participate in a fully in-person New Student Orientation week. Events included arts and crafts, drag bingo and pop-up thrift shops.
In an interview with The News-Letter, freshman Victoria Olive, discussed her experience participating in the Multi-Element Outdoor Pre-Orientation trip.
“The activities were great — all of the rafting and hiking. It gives you a great chance to get to know people super well, because you're stuck in the woods with them for a week,“ she said. “When you sleep with your head in the crook of somebody's neck, and you've known them for all of two days, you get pretty close.”
She expressed a similar sentiment about the First-Year Mentor (FYM) groups, explaining that even for those who found it difficult to reach out to others and socialize, there were eight people who were always there.
In an interview with The News-Letter, freshman Kamie Mueller echoed this statement, adding that the organized group events, including the trip to the farmer’s market, gave her an opportunity to see local culture in Baltimore by exploring the areas surrounding campus.
However, Mueller also said that she found the overall structure of the program restricting, noting that it sometimes felt like she was forced to attend different events throughout the day with few breaks. She expressed that more free time would have helped her to enjoy the program more. Olive expressed similar frustrations, recalling that some of the lectures felt long and redundant, as she heard about the same services multiple times.
In an interview with The News-Letter, freshman Steve Rodriguez noted that orientation week provided a misleading impression of Hopkins.
“[Orientation week] really put us in a state of mind where college is just fun,“ he said. “So [the transition] was pretty hard because it was a week of fun, and then, oh, here are your classes.”
Mueller echoed this statement, proposing an alternative schedule to make room for transition time. She suggested a shorter orientation program, with the extra time allowing freshmen to start focusing on academics, or studying in groups.
Rodriguez also discussed academic life at Hopkins, explaining that he felt the stereotype of a competitive school environment, in which students are expected to study all the time, applies to the University. However, referencing his First-Year Seminar, he added that he appreciated the environment professors created in the classroom, as it fostered active discussion.
“I feel like the professors really challenge you to see the material through various perspectives, rather than just a curriculum to follow,” he said.
Mueller echoed Rodriguez’s sentiment, citing her experience in her physics class. She said she appreciated being able to work on problems with peers instead of being lectured, not only for the active-learning aspect, but also for the social aspect.
Olive expressed that she has found the transition to university courses to be deceptively easy. She attributed this to syllabus week, acknowledging that she can see how things will be getting harder.
“I'm going to need to be a lot more rigorous and structured about how I spend my time out of class studying and preparing,” she said.
Olive also shed light on her experience living away from home for the first time. She explained that while she is enjoying the freedom and independence, she has found it difficult to balance her responsibilities with her social life.
“It feels like you can always hang out with people whenever you want,” she said. “But you can't, because you have to make sure that you listen to your lectures and read your readings and do your homework.”