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Spring Customs? New First-Year Orientation Slated for February

During a normal year, members of the first-year class arrive on campus during the fall semester and undergo the in-person orientation, known as Customs, at the same time. But just like so many other “normal” routines, this plan was derailed by COVID-19. While a majority of first-years still arrived on campus in August and September, the orientation was partially virtual, and a subset of students was tuning in remotely from their homes around the world. An even smaller subset of international students was absent as a result of their decision to take a gap semester.

Now that spring 2021 is approaching, these first-year Fords have been thinking about their plans for the upcoming semester. According to the Dean’s Office, 23 first-years are coming to campus for the first time this spring, while 15–20 have chosen to stay remote. Dean of First Year and Pre-Major Advising Katrina Glanzer also noted that there are fewer than ten international students who chose to take a gap semester this fall and will be starting their Haverford education virtually this spring.

For the 23 students coming to campus for the first time, an introduction to the campus, the safety guidelines, and the location of various resources will be necessary.

“We want to give first-years newly arriving to campus additional time to get settled, so they will be moving in on the [the first day], as we will be holding orientation the week before classes begin,” wrote Dean Glanzer in an email on December 7.

Dean Glanzer added that the group of students remaining remote this semester and those arriving at Haverford for the first time will be encouraged to join the virtual aspects of this orientation. For the latter group, she hopes to support them this February in order to ensure that they feel prepared for the start of classes.

“In this unique year, international students were given the option to defer for a single semester due to time zone, visa, and travel concerns… These students will have additional asynchronous orientation activities in January as well as the synchronous orientation sessions the week before classes begin,” she said.

On December 24, Interim Associate Director of International Student Support Services Natasha Weisz sent out updated dates for the spring orientation, which will take place February 5–11, given the two week delay to the start of spring semester.

According to Weisz’s email, students will participate in a variety of virtual and (distanced) in-person social activities, as well as various synchronous Zoom sessions about campus resources. New international students, who must remain in room quarantine until they receive their COVID test results, will also be provided with some asynchronous recordings from fall Customs to catch them up on additional information regarding campus life.

The opportunity for a spring orientation will prove a welcome one for students who were not on campus in the fall. Sherry Sun ’24 expressed apprehension about adjusting to a more rigorous course schedule than the fall while also attempting to integrate socially this spring, which will be her first semester on campus. However, she hopes that the orientation will help her confront these challenges: “The orientation is the part I’m really excited about. I’ve joined online activities and custom groups, and they were great.”

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