Incoming freshmen organize activities ahead of campus arrival

by Lauren Adler | 7/24/20 2:10am

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Source: Courtesy of Jessica Chiriboga '24

Members of the Class of 2024 will be arriving on campus to a somewhat nontraditional freshman fall experience, but some ’24s have taken it upon themselves to get to know their classmates before virtual New Student Orientation begins.

Jessica Chiriboga ’24 said that the virtual event planning began when she started the Instagram account @dartmouthprom to facilitate a Dartmouth “redemption prom” — a popular idea for a prom-like event in the fall for first-year students whose formal prom dances were canceled due to COVID-19. Though eventually it became clear that both a normal fall term and a redemption prom were out of the question, Chiriboga said that she and around 20 other students that had been working on the event decided to continue using the Instagram account to plan virtual class-bonding events. 

Chiriboga has also helped plan an open mic night over Instagram Live in April which she says was attended by seventy people, a dance party over Zoom in June, Zoom movie nights and most recently, a 24-hour Zoom call set to begin at 11 a.m. on July 24. 

“I think it’s just a great way for people to get to know each other,” Chiriboga said. “I feel like for the people who are involved [with the virtual events], it’s been really great for them to bond with other members of their class.”

Chiriboga said she wishes that the events she plans could reach more students, as there are only about 660 members of the Class of 2024 in the official class GroupMe group chat and the @dartmouthprom Instagram account has just over 450 followers. 

She said she hopes to work more with the College in the future to make more students aware of virtual events. For the 24-hour Zoom call event, she and the event organizers invited dean Natalie Hoyt to host an “ask me anything” session.

“The biggest response that I would love to see from the College is the College actively working with ’24s who are interested in planning,” she said. “I am very grateful that a lot of the programming has come organically directly from the students, but I would love to see more of a partnership between the two of us.”

Though the College will be providing virtual programming in lieu of traditional First-Year Trips, some students are concerned that they will not be able to effectively bond with their peers through a screen.

When Ethan Litmans ’24 and Robert Mailley ’24 learned that they would not be able to participate in a traditional Trips experience, they planned a camping trip of their own with a small group of other incoming students who all met at the Dartmouth Club of D.C.’s annual holiday party.

“It came together really, really quickly,” Mailley said. “We figured that we already had this group of guys, and even if we couldn’t do an official, Dartmouth-sanctioned [trip], it could still be a lot of fun.”

Although they have each already gotten to know some of their classmates, Chiriboga, Litmans and Mailley are concerned that ’24s who arrive on campus without meeting anyone first will feel isolated, especially during the two weeks of mandatory quarantine in dorm rooms.

“We have the luck of knowing each other on our ‘Trips’ thing, but I think it’s unique in the sense that not many other Dartmouth students are doing something like that, that I know of,” Litmans said. “So we're lucky that we at least know each other from that, but for other students, it seems as of right now that during that quarantine period, over those 14 days, and even beyond that, there's nothing planned to help students meet each other.”

Litmans said that he hopes that after the quarantine period is over, the College will organize socially-distanced events for new students to meet each other, even if they are restricted to students in the same residence hall or on the same floor.

“[Making friends through Zoom programming] just seems inorganic, and it’s just not set up well to meet new people,” he said. “I just think it will be really hard for a lot of students who haven’t met people already to make new friends over Zoom, especially if you don’t have a roommate.”

Mailley said that completely virtual programming might disrupt the process many students go through during their freshman fall of meeting new people and adjusting to a new environment.

“I just hope Dartmouth is taking into consideration our mental well-being and how we can develop friendships,” he said. “It’s understandable with everything that’s going on that they have to take precautions, but I hope they’ve put into place something more than just Zoom calls, so we can really meet our classmates.”