Changes made to 2021’s freshman orientation Explore! experience

By Emma Russell
Student Life Editor

The Washington College campus is once again open and accessible to the entire student body, but before the sophomores, juniors, and seniors arrive, freshmen took over the place for their orientation week.

Freshmen arrived for move-in on Aug. 23 before jumping into a week filled with meetings and activities planned for the class of 2025. 

Freshmen got to experience a week filled with essential academic advisor and Peer Mentor meetings, tours of academic resources, the classic Playfair, and activities planned by the Student Events Board.

The biggest change to this year’s orientation is the shifting of the orientation Explore! program. In the past, students would sign up for Explore! groups before stepping foot on campus then spend the first week of their freshman orientation participating in the various Explore! activities with their fellow peers and Peer Mentors. But, according to Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Dr. Sarah Feyerherm, the Explore! program will be spread out through the entire fall semester, with students signing up for groups at the end of their orientation week.

Dr. Feyerherm said the reason behind the change was COVID-19. Last spring, when orientation was being planned, there was a lot of uncertainty about whether or not a large amount of first-year students could be grouped together for close-contact activities. 

 Freshmen were given the opportunity to sign up for their Explore! groups on Aug. 27 at a carnival hosted by SEB at Wilmer Park.

The carnival had outdoor games such as cornhole, inflatable obstacle courses, and sprinklers, all for first year students to enjoy.

Staioned around the carnival were various tents whichheld the different Explore! groups, as well asPeer Mentors who helped students sign up for their Explore! groups.

The Peer Mentors are an integral part of the freshman orientation experience. According to Dr. Feyerherm, Peer Mentors started online training during summer break and moved onto campus a week before freshmen for in-person training. 

“I’m so impressed with this group of Peer Mentors. They are in many ways having to start with a blank slate, and they have really picked everything up very quickly and have jumped in with both feet, and are just doing a fantastic job,” Dr. Feyerherm said.

Peer Mentor Leader and senior Sydney Voelbel has been a Peer Mentor for three years, and a Peer Mentor Leader for two. 

According to Voelbel, being a Peer Mentor Leader means that she helps oversee the entire Peer Mentor program and has other Peer Mentors report to her if they have questions or concerns. 

Voelbel said there are 23 different Explore! programs. All first-year students are required to sign up for one Explore! program of their choice and participate in all the Explore! related activities throughout the semester.

Freshman Bridget Tiffey decided to sign up for the sailing Explore! program. She said the previous night she had received an email with the different Explore! group options and when she saw the sailing photos she, “just thought it would be so much fun to go on the water, especially because it’s so hot in August in Maryland, and my friends and I thought it looked so much fun.”

Freshman Brady Burns signed up for the camping Explore! program where students kayak to different campsites each night. Similar to Tiffey, Burns selected this program because his friends were doing it and he thought it seemed fun. 

Dr. Feyerherm said that next year oreintation Explore! will returm to normal, but for students like Tiffey and Burns this years change was beneficial. Students were able to join an Explore! group with their friends and now get the opportuinty to navigate their first semester in college together. 

Photo by Izze Rios

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