As the world continues to wrestle with the new reality of COVID-19, UR’s incoming first-year and transfer students are having a unique online orientation this year.

First-year Alyssa Koh boiled her first day on campus down to two words: “confusing and exciting.”

“The orientation this year is going well,” said sophomore Waleed Nadeem, one of the six orientation leaders. “We are doing it in the hybrid mode, with both virtual and in-person. It’s a new experience, and we are trying to reimagine the events.”

A mostly online model means that orientation leaders have to make more efforts to connect with the incoming students compared to previous years. 

“I’m mentoring 250 students. I wrote emails and used social media to connect them, [making] sure I answered every question and concern they have,” Nadeem said. “We also planned the guidebook app, and hold a weekly talk show.”

Nadeem described orientation both this year and in a normal summer as a seven-day opportunity for incoming students to make friends and adjust to their new home before the semester begins.  

In an effort to provide COVID-friendly in-person activities, the Orientation Office will hold a series of events such as sunset yoga, gaming night, movie night, and a fitness challenge. Nadeem also mentioned that some of the University’s oldest traditions, such as the Candlelight Ceremony, will be held virtually — but “in a very special way.”   

Meanwhile, the Office for Residential Life & Housing Services is planning for the first-year move-ins that will take place from Monday, Aug. 17 to Thursday, Aug. 20. To prepare, Resident Advisors (RA), First-Year Fellows, and D’Lions went through intensive training.

“The training is going well,” said junior and RA Nikola Marinos Raitsevits. “A lot of information and some aspects are still unknown due to the current situation.”

Due to COVID, the RAs and other members of ResLife staff are shouldering extra responsibility to keep the community safe. 

“We should keep in mind the restriction of social [distancing] while creating a program,” said junior and first-year RA Joseph Frye. “We are going to check on our residents [and] facilities [and] make sure everyone is doing well.”

Although Nadeem mentioned uncertainties surrounding time zone differences and possible technical issues, he highlighted that “the whole point is not orientation itself, but the people.” 

Frye advised incoming students to try to stay engaged and to check CCC and the guidebook app for additional resources and events. 

To students studying remotely, Nadeem has a message.

“This might be your advantage. You have more time doing what you like, make a better mindset! Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help. State it out explicitly and amplify your voice. We are here to help.”

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