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Orientation small group programs to occur in person, based on campus

<h5>An OA group on top of Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah Park, Virginia, in a non-pandemic year.</h5>
<h6>Thomas Morris ’20 for The Daily Princetonian</h6>
An OA group on top of Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah Park, Virginia, in a non-pandemic year.
Thomas Morris ’20 for The Daily Princetonian

Orientation’s small-group programs will be in-person and based on-campus this fall, according to an email sent to student leaders on Monday and obtained by The Daily Princetonian. 

“We continue to feel the impact of the pandemic, even as we hope to return to in-person programming this August,” the announcement states. “For this year, small group programs will remain campus-based. All students and leaders will remain on-campus overnight, with day trips as appropriate. Plans will be subject to change, given New Jersey state and/or University health and safety guidelines.”

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The programs will begin the evening of Sunday, August 22. Move-in will occur the day before, according to the University’s Orientation website.

Orientation “small group experiences” refer to Outdoor Action (OA), Community Action (CA), Dialogue and Difference in Action (DDA), and the Fall-Sport Student Athlete experience. 

The Orientation office and University Office of Communications did not respond to a request for further details.

According to several students in the Class of 2025, incoming first-years completed a questionnaire in early June to help sort them into OA, CA, or DDA.  

First-years will also take part in an online, four-week Summer Engagement Program that will place members of the Class of 2025 in groups led by a sophomore, junior, or senior leader that will meet weekly to “provide opportunities for students to meet one another and engage with upperclass students prior to arriving on campus.”

The program, which took place for the first time in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will occur again in four weekly installments between June 21 and July 16.

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Incoming first-years interviewed by the ‘Prince’ expressed excitement at the prospect of in-person activities.

“I wasn’t 100 percent sure they would be in person but I was pretty confident they would be since Princeton is mandating vaccines,” said Nate Howard ’25. “It’s great to hear that they’re definitely in person!”  

Howard hopes to be placed in DDA to meet new people and have conversations to “learn about people from other backgrounds compared to my friends from [the town of] Princeton.” 

Like Howard, Anjali Brunnermeier ’25, who hopes to be placed in Community Action, is excited that the programs will be in person. “I think that it will be easier to make connections with friends and also to be involved in the activities,” she said. 

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“I would have been really nervous last year because I think making friends in a completely new environment online would have been really difficult,” Brunnermeier added.

Student leaders were also excited that the programs would be in person, though several expressed some confusion and disappointment that they would not include prolonged off-campus travel. 

“As a leader, I was really hoping to have a full OA experience, partially because I missed out on mine but also so that I could help the incoming class begin to find the same sense of community that I did,” said Jonny Gagnon ’24. “I was a little bummed and also confused to see that the Orientation would not be completely normal this year.” 

Last fall, Gagnon completed the “Virtual Frosh Trip” along with many other incoming first-year students. Despite the hours of zoom calls, he was “pleasantly surprised” by the experience and that “it was really nice to start out the virtual Princeton with at least knowing some friendly faces.”

“While I was very grateful about the OA experience being held in-person, I wasn’t too excited to learn that all trips will remain on-campus overnight,” said Maryam Kamel ’23, who completed OA in-person in the fall of 2019. “I was looking forward to leading my frosh in enjoying all aspects of a true backpacking experience, from going on long hikes during the day and setting camp at night to cooking on-site and bear-bagging.” 

“With that being said, I am very happy to return to in-person interaction and am very excited to lead an OA trip,” she concluded.

Kate Macakanja ’23, who completed OA training during her first year, felt similarly about the lack of a true backpacking experience, explaining that she opted not to lead a virtual trip in 2020.

“While I’m disappointed that there won’t be a backpacking component, because I think being away from campus is super important to foster community, I’m mostly glad that it will be in-person and not virtual,” she said.

Details of the in-person, campus-based orientation programs are not yet available. The email announcement concluded with a note that “much planning is still underway for the upcoming year” and that the team would be in touch with further details. 

The Class of 2025 can follow updates to Orientation programming on the Path to Princeton website

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