WC’s sense of community cannot be replicated in a virtual setting

By Megan Loock

Elm Staff Writer

According to popular opinion, college is supposed to be the best four years of your life. This label seems inconsequential in today’s circumstances, in which many American students are stuck to live out college at home amidst a global pandemic.

I came to college to learn — not only in my classes, but in the fundamentals of daily life. College is meant to instruct students to fend for themselves; to do laundry, get to class on time, and, most of all, to wade into the complex adult society they had been previously sheltered from.

As a junior, I was fortunate to have a little under two years on campus. Now, sitting at home in my childhood bedroom, I realize I took that time for granted.

At Washington College the Orientation Explore Program is a crucial aspect of our school community. Orientation builds friendships that last through college and beyond. This is where freshmen meet their first college friends. Instead of attending zoom meetings, freshmen would ideally spend orientation completing fun, challenging activities outside of campus.

During my Explore Program, I got to sail in the ‘Set Sail for College’ group. Though I failed at the sailing part, I enjoyed laughing and sharing my frustrations with the friends I had made. This year’s freshman will not experience that.

WC peer mentor Isabelle Anderson told me that the biggest challenge of virtual orientation is getting people to talk. Icebreakers are unanimously boring and awkward, though she has found they have some success in bringing freshmen out of their shells. She hopes that some class-wide jokes will come out of this experience.

Like Anderson, I hope the new freshman will look back on this weird experience and laugh, hopefully bringing them together the same way orientation did for the rest of us.

I would like to say the community that Washington College builds is unique, and in some ways it is. But overall, Washington College cultivates the same feelings of community that other colleges and universities do. Much of this is founded in a student’s first few weeks on campus. For new freshmen, this sense of community has been delayed.

Aristotle said, “Man is a social animal.” This, I believe, is especially true in a college setting. It is  impossible to recreate a virtual college community that matches the one in person.

When The Odyssey asked 31 students what the “college experience” meant to them, a student  named Adam, who declined giving his last name, said, “It’s about building character, testing to see what life is all about, as what your life is going to be about.”

This is a time where the “rules,” whatever they are thought to be, are evolving. Change is hard to grasp. Even so, these attempts to build community in a virtual setting will only bring us closer once we can be finally be together in-person again.

Featured Photo caption: Screenshot of peer mentor meeting during WC’s online orientation. Left to right: Amy Luther, Isabelle Anderson, Delaney Runge, Rachel Merson, Sophie Foster, Paige Dauplaise, Karen Anderson, and Jack Theriault. Photo by Isabelle Anderson.

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