Spring transfer students have begun their first semester at Georgetown University, adjusting to a new school in the middle of the academic year and in a remote setting.
Many students said they chose to transfer to Georgetown because of difficulties from the COVID-19 pandemic, saying they wanted to be closer to home or avoid border closures. The university accepted 132 transfer students for spring 2021, according to a university spokesperson. Georgetown only began to accept spring transfer students in recent years, according to the university website. The decision to open applications for spring transfer students is made on a yearly basis.
The spring 2021 New Student Orientation was held virtually over Zoom for transfer students. Programming took place from Jan. 21 to Jan. 23 and included panels on social justice and community engagement, as well as special evening programs and smaller group meetings.
Each student was placed in an orientation group of eight to 10 students that met regularly over the course of the three days. The small orientation groups made it easier to meet new people and facilitated a more comfortable transition process, according to Genevieve Grenier (MSB ’24), who transferred from McGill University in Canada.
“I think they did a good job of putting us in small enough groups where we could actually talk to people more than once,” Grenier said in a FaceTime interview with The Hoya. “Honestly as far as the academic adjustment and getting into the system, they did a really good job; it was all a very quick turnaround.”
Grenier, who lives in Washington, D.C., is hopeful she will be able to connect with people in person this semester, something she couldn’t do last semester after Canada closed its border with the United States because of rising in COVID-19 cases.
“I’ve met a few cool people over orientation on Zoom, but what I’m really excited for is to hopefully socially distance meet people in the city, in a park, because last semester all my friends were across a closed border,” Grenier said.
Morgen Ingerson (COL ’24) transferred from Wake Forest University in North Carolina after finding the culture in the South too different from her home in Albany, N.Y. Ingerson said the communal experience of NSO, which Wake Forest did not offer, allowed her to get to know some of her classmates and get a sense of the Georgetown community before classes started.
“I really liked that it was definitely very interactive, and we were able to meet other transfer students,” Ingerson said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “At my previous school, the orientation was all asynchronous. So you just did modules on Canvas and took quizzes, so I never really got to meet fellow students and really get to know what the community was like.”
Ingerson also found the panels and speakers at NSO to be good resources for new students. Featured events included the academic deans’ assemblies, the racial justice panel, and other social programming.
“They had a good balance of informative panels, because different departments from the school, as well as student experiences of people who have transferred or just who go there now and just really enjoyed their experience” Ingerson said.
NSO organizers selected the panels and speakers based on their aim to increase the sense of community between transfer students and strengthen their connections to Georgetown, according to spring 2021 NSO coordinator Brendan Omaña (SFS ’23).
“The messaging and focus of this NSO (aside from the normal topics) was definitely geared towards community and fostering interpersonal connection despite operating in a virtual environment,” Omaña wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The staff, panels, and speakers definitely tried to foster new students’ connection to the community and make them feel like true Georgetown students despite many of them never having been to campus and many unfortunately not having a strong connection to the university yet.”
Despite being disappointed that Georgetown classes will be held virtually in the spring, Ingerson said the remote semester will alleviate the stress of living on a college campus during a pandemic, which she experienced in her first semester at Wake Forest.
“Having to wear masks all the time and get randomly tested, that adds a lot of stress to the college process that’s already pretty brand new as a freshman,” Ingerson said. “So I’m disappointed in my whole college experience not being able to go, but I understand this semester why it’s better to just stay home.”
However, some international students struggled to attend NSO events because of time zone differences, including Erica Oh (SFS ’23), who currently lives in South Korea.
“We had parts that were mandatory, but the optional ones that were at 7 p.m. EST, I was sleeping because I stayed up till 5 a.m. to do the rest,” Oh said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “It wasn’t ideal because I’m a mid-year transfer and I’m also a sophomore transfer, so I wanted to meet as many people I could, but having NSO and everything else online was kind of tough.”
All NSO panels were recorded for students experiencing time zone difficulties, according to Omaña.
“We recorded all panels to ensure that all students had the opportunity to watch and engage in the programming if their time zone made attending the live sessions difficult!” Omaña wrote.
When students can return to campus, more bonding events for 2021 spring transfers would help with the transition to Georgetown life, according to Oh.
“I think they definitely should do a new student lunch or something for us to help meet people when we’re all in person because it’s different, and I feel that would be so helpful because I literally haven’t met that many people,” Oh said.
Although worried about being able to establish relationships with fellow students in a virtual environment, Ingerson is hopeful the connections she made at NSO will last.
“I’m a little worried about not being able to make connections with people, but I was able to have a good NSO with some first-years, and I have a couple friends I can reach out to now,” Ingerson said.