Incoming first-years and sophomores were welcomed last week with the renewal of many Rochester traditions that were cancelled last year due to COVID-19. Many first-years expressed excitement to be on campus.

“My favorite event was the candlelight ceremony because it’s kind of symbolic,” first-year Grace Kim told the Campus Times. “I think I’ve really realized I’m really here and like, things are starting on campus.”

“[The candlelight ceremony] was pretty good, I guess, except for the bugs,” first-year Robert Lyu concurred. “And besides that, the experience was very astonishing. I met a lot of people and I feel like we’re getting somewhere. I feel like I’m really excited to start a new chapter of my life with these people that I’ve met.”

Many students said the convocation speeches, specifically the one by junior SA President Sabeet Kazmi left them not only inspired, but feeling connected to their campus community.

“They seemed different, I guess, saying, ‘You belong here’ and ‘We are looking forward to having you influence us,’ and I felt like that message is something you don’t hear very often — and hearing that made the speech feel more authentic and more personalized,” first-year Hisashi Lonske said. “I thought it really helped establish a sense of what the school’s environment is, [and] what the vibe will be for the next couple of years here […] I thought it was a great speech.”

First-years also participated in Wilson Day, the yearly afternoon of community service where students engage in various community service activities that help them connect to the city. Students spent time picking up garbage from parks, cleaning the Mount Hope Cemetery, and doing various other community service activities in Rochester. 

Last year these ceremonies were canceled or severely modified due to the pandemic. As a substitute for the normal candlelight ceremony, now-sophomores shone lights out their dorm room windows at the same time. Updated University guidance allowed for the University to host this year’s candlelight ceremony in person, as well as offering Wilson Day, Commencement, and a move in with the assistance of ResLife and the football team schedule for first-years. 

For many sophomores who arrived on campus for the first time after a virtual first-year, however, felt left out of the orientation activities.

“I wish we could be let into some of the first-year orientation events like the glow in the dark party, but I understand why the [first-years] had their own thing,” sophomore Mahnoor Raza said. “It would have been cool if they could have organized something similar for the sophomores, too.”

Sophomores had the option of attending a Class of 2024 orientation and class roll signing, something they missed out on last year, but were not invited to participate in Wilson Day or the in-person candlelight ceremony. Many sophomores noted that this year’s 2024 orientation was chaotic and did not have enough seating. 

“They had some activities […] but it was just too loud in there and you couldn’t hear each other,” sophomore Jingfei Huang said. “So we didn’t really do the activities they designed for us — we just signed the class roll and then we left.”

Despite a tumultuous virtual first year and an untraditional transition to campus, many were optimistic about the coming semester.

“I think it is a bit harder for me to do it virtual because I had other things going on in my household […] so it was a bit overwhelming,” sophomore Cesar Garza said. “but I think being here in person is going to definitely change that.”

“I’m just adjusting to the new environment and atmosphere. It’s welcoming, so that’s a good part.”

Students also emphasised their excitement to exercise their newfound independence after spending the majority of the previous year at home.

“The freedom of being able to do things on my own time is really great. I’m really enjoying it,” first-year Vic Cohen told CT. “I don’t have to eat dinner when my beloved boomer parents do at 3 p.m.” 

Not all traditions are positive, however.

According to campus legend, those who walk under the clocktower outside Wilson Commons will be cursed not to complete their degree in four years. First-year Sage Arnold boldly defied the curse in an effort to prove it wrong. 

“I want to be the most cursed person on this campus. I’m going to keep walking under that clocktower every time I walk past it,” Arnold told CT after defiantly strutting through the space under the clocktower. “You know what, I didn’t walk under that clocktower, that clocktower walked under me.”

“Over you, the clock tower walked over you,” Cohen corrected, laughing.

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