Unable to form friendships through late-night excursions to Epicurean and other popular on-campus activities, Georgetown University freshmen have put together small meetups with nearby classmates this semester to connect with one another.
The university’s original fall reopening plan, released in July, invited approximately 2,000 students back to campus, including the entire Class of 2024. When the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic did not improve, however, the university revised its original plan and opted instead to invite only about 500 students who secured housing because of extenuating circumstances.
Since learning they would be fully remote this fall, first-year students have sought opportunities to socialize offline, including Gershon Stein (COL ’24), the organizer of a gathering in Chicago’s Ping Tom Memorial Park.
“When we went all online, I decided that I needed to do something to meet classmates and connect with the institution,” Stein said in an interview with The Hoya. “I’m a people person, so it was definitely very difficult to not have any foresight as to when I would meet people in person. I thought that it would be nice to meet some people who I was going to school with.”
Inevitably, the meetup was a little awkward at first, but authentically meeting classmates in person cannot be replicated online, according to Stein.
“I think that everyone’s a little starved for social interaction,” Stein said. “A breakout room is never going to have the same effect as you coupling off with people and talking in a class or at a large event. Part of it is breakout rooms are random, and you also don’t get the same facial expression or idea of how people take up space.”
Maximilian Goetz (MSB ’24), who organized a San Francisco Bay Area meetup, agreed Zoom can limit flexibility in conversation.
“When you’re in a group on Zoom and one person talks, everyone hears, but when you are in a group in person, you can have side conversations and really get to know people,” Goetz said in an interview with The Hoya.
The meetups not only provide students an opportunity to connect with one another, but also offer a chance to connect with the Georgetown community and culture at large, according to Jolie Ouyang (SFS ’24) who attended a Bay Area meetup.
“I know I have Georgetown merch, but considering how we’re not actually on campus, it’s really hard to consider myself part of the community,” Ouyang said in an interview with The Hoya.
Regional meetups make a big difference to approximate a normal college social life, according to Maeve Foley (COL ’24), who attended a meet up in New York City.
“The meetup was helpful for knowing that there are people really nearby you that you can hang out with and socialize with, and it kind of made it easier not being on campus because you know that you still do have people in your local area,” Foley said in an interview with The Hoya.
Although first-year students are still excited to get back to campus and meet more people in person, for now, the meetups are the best way to stay connected, according to Ouyang.
“I think meeting up in person has been one of the most effective ways because I have been in a lot of GroupMes and Zoom calls, and many of them were for social reasons, and I don’t think any of it beats actually meeting people,” Ouyang said. “You get a different sense of who everyone is when you actually see them compared to doing it through Zoom because there is a level of anonymity.”