On the morning of September 10th, a sea of roughly 450 first year students in their purple “Class of 2026” t-shirts were seated in the transformed B1 cafeteria to listen to the University Welcome speeches which commenced the three day orientation. With the arrival of over 200 international students throughout the latter half of August, orientation was held, with the exception of a handful of students, entirely in-person for the first time in three years.

Over these three days, the general sentiment was, as Xu Xiaoqing from the Class of 2026 puts it, “overall just fun, but also tire[ing]”. From morning to evening, students participated in a variety of mandatory sessions, workshops, and activities. Each assigned to a specific Orientation Ambassador (OA), students got a chance to get to know members of their OA group through the discussions of the First Year Dialogue (FYD) program and by competing together in activities such as the Fun Olympics and academic building Scavenger Hunt. Many students found this small group setting of usually 12-16 students much better for really getting to know each other and building connections. In terms of preparing for the semester, many cited the workshops, such as Preparing for Classes or Joining a Scholarly Discussion, as quite helpful. For Meilin Lu the opportunity to “experience the class atmosphere first” during orientation events makes her feel less nervous for actual classes.

Orientation this year was also special in that it coincided with the Mid Autumn Festival, a very important holiday in Chinese culture. At the end of the first long day of orientation, students were invited to a celebration of food, games, and crafts. Skilled artists hired by the school could be found at different tables practicing their craft. Such crafts included but were not limited to paper cutting, sugar painting, straw plaited animals, and fan painting.

Throughout the night students also had the opportunity to try on traditional Chinese clothing, known as hanfu, and participate in a game of jeopardy. Visible in the back were towers of dessert boxes prepared for each student, containing mooncakes, a specialty of Mid-Autumn festival, and other little treats.

Orientation officially concluded with a final game night on Monday September 12th.