First-year students adapt to remote freshman year experience

First-year students adapt to remote freshman year experience

Freshman film production major Veronica Tullo has always loved film. In high school, after she had to transfer to a school without a film club, she simply started her own. After receiving 13 awards in film festivals for her movies, she was looking forward to pursuing her Hollywood dreams at Chapman. 

However, she had a feeling her first semester at Chapman University would be remote, given the prolonged silence from administration regarding the possibility of in-person classes for the fall. Yet that didn’t make it any less disappointing when the final word came.

“It was really disheartening to hear the official announcement,” Tullo said. “I wouldn’t be able to make productions, which is what I really admired Chapman for, and it’s something I won’t be able to experience for another couple months up to a year depending on the pandemic.” 

Tullo had high hopes for her first semester of college: working on film sets, making movies, trying out for the volleyball team and getting involved in extracurriculars. 

“I was really looking forward to clubs; I was planning on getting involved in theater and Shakespeare which is something I’m really passionate about,” Tullo said. “Clubs and extracurricular activities would give me the opportunity to connect with people who aren’t in my classes or in my college.” 

Although Tullo was looking forward to living in the dorms, she decided to stay home in New Jersey to complete her first semester virtually. Between the flight fares and transporting her belongings across the country, she was committed to saving money this semester by staying home. 

“We would have to pay not only for the dorms, but also we have to supply our own food,” Tullo said. “I would rather stay at home for the first semester to save money to then put that money towards something like a car, which I would need for making productions or a job outside of Orange.” 

However, some freshmen have found other housing options in Orange to simulate the college experience. Freshman business administration major Jaclyn Reid moved into an apartment a mile away from campus. 

“It’s hard to meet people, but I’ve seen (Chapman students) in our (apartment) building,” Reid said. “Classes not being in person might be really hard for us because when they are in person, we’re going to feel like freshmen all over again whether it be next year or even next semester.”

Both Tullo and Reid are two of many first-years who participated in Chapman’s virtual orientation. Each day of orientation week, instead of flooding Chapman’s campus bushy-tailed and bright-eyed, they logged onto their Zoom accounts to conduct meetings with their orientation groups remotely. 

Not only did students have meetings with their Orientation Leaders (OLs) in their Fenestra groups each weekday, they also had departmental meetings and regional meetings in addition to affinity groups for students to find people with similar interests. 

Orientation Leader Maddie Milla, a senior environmental science and policy major, helped create the virtual orientation experience by training the OLs as well as testing out activities like the virtual Playfair, which she said was a “blast.” One aspect that Milla was especially excited for was the “We Are Chapman” initiative, which introduced first-year students to the university’s diversity and inclusion mission.

“For the most part, everything (from regular orientation) is pretty much there; it’s similar to what it would have been like in person, just online,” Milla said. “We are keeping our main emphasis on the students and they’re going to learn what they need to help guide them through Chapman.”