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A Warm Welcome to our First-Years.

Jul 31, 2020

Mentors for Freshman Orientation 2020 (Kang San, Department of Biology Education Class of ‘16, and Jo Ye-Eun, Department of Communication Class of ‘17.)
Mentors for Freshman Orientation 2020 (Kang San, Department of Biology Education Class of ‘16, and Jo Ye-Eun, Department of Communication Class of ‘17.)

Thoughtful interactions make for a very warm welcome

March 2020 marked the first semester in SNU history where freshman matriculation was postponed, and classes were moved to online lectures. Early February’s Freshman Orientation was the only official event in which incoming first-years were able to come together and share their experiences. Freshman Orientation included a formal introduction of SNU, team-building programs and a tour of the campus. The entire program was divided into three events that took place over three separate dates. The Division of Student Affairs, along with a group of Freshman Orientation Mentors, meticulously planned for these events over a period of five months. Reflecting on the significance of Freshman Orientation, one mentor mused: “I’ve always felt that it is extremely important to establish a strong foundation campus life, and Freshman Orientation is one of the few opportunities in which we get to meet students from other departments. almost importantly, this is a time where you really get to feel like you’re being taken care of by the senior students of the school. I wanted all of the first-year students taking part in this year’s Freshman Orientation to feel like they were being extended a warm welcome from us, while also developing a kinship amongst themselves.” The Mentors compiled a comprehensive manual for the first-year students and relayed this to the senior students taking part in the execution of the Freshman Orientation. Every detail, from the directions to the event’s very first venue, to the very last moments of every afterparty, were carefully and meticulously accounted for. Moreover, the Mentors, considerate of the discomfort first-years might feel at having to walk long distances in the freezing winter, made sure to reserve buses that travelled across campus so that the first-year students could participate in the programs at their ease.

Making ethical choices

In order to improve the quality of Freshman Orientation, the Mentors made sure to solicit anonymous feedback after each of the three events. Feedback from the first event was used to help improve to the second event, and because the effort being taken to solve even the smallest of problems was obvious to all, anticipation for the third and final event was paramount. Unfortunately, COVID-19 began spreading throughout the country in the days leading up to the final event of Orientation. Though there were only about 10 confirmed cases in Korea at the time, the Mentors felt that they needed to take a responsible course of action in considering an event that would gather over 2000 people. “Because we prepared really hard and for so long, we were extremely disappointed to have to cancel the event. Under normal circumstances, we probably would have pushed to go through with the event, but when we thought about the social significance that SNU’s Freshman Orientation holds, we knew had to cancel. We felt so bad for the 900 first-year students who were looking forward to the final event of Orientation that we sent each of them an individually packaged gift.” Also canceled was this year’s Balloon Releasing Event, a popular Orientation highlight. The mentors, conscientious of environmental issues, deciding to replace balloon releasing event with fireworks display. Though it was regrettable that the Mentors couldn’t take pictures of themselves holding armfuls of beautiful balloons like their seniors before them all had, when one considers the social impact of SNU’s Freshman Orientation, the decision to do away with the event can undoubtedly be seen as a positive change. Although the first-year students may never be able to see their faces, they will nonetheless feel the affection, and care that the senior students put into planning, commencing, and ultimately wisely deciding to close this momentous Freshman Orientation.

Written by Cheesue Kim, SNU English Editor, cheesuerocket@gmail.com
Reviewed by Professor Travis Smith, Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations, tlsmith@snu.ac.kr