For many remote First-years this term, the long-awaited dream of setting foot on the gorgeous Wellesley campus, designing a dorm room and having a picnic near Lake Waban has been replaced with the reality of countless Zoom meetings and emails.
“I talked to a few people on social media, … which I don’t mind,” Hana Nagata ’24 said. “But I guess it’s different from students on campus, who get to meet up and go out for lunch.”
Despite struggles to create social connections with peers, most remote First-years agree that their professors have been supportive and remain dedicated to making the remote learning experience as smooth as possible.
“I feel like my professors did a good job transitioning to remote learning. In my two remote classes I feel like I’m learning, and they are doing a great job of accommodating students,” Maimoonah Shafqat ’24 said. “The hardest part is the social life. I don’t know anyone who goes to Wellesley in person. All my interactions have been online [through WhatsApp, GroupMe or Discord] and it’s so hard to make friends this way.”
Outside of social media, students have found virtual group work a good resource to meet others.
“In class, we have little break out sessions where we get to work with people and just get to know them,” said Pauline Le Grand ’24. “The group work is helpful in that you get at least to meet some people and get to know them more personally.”
Remote students from overseas have also noted that maintaining social connections is difficult due to the differences in time zones.
“We are doing a lot of group projects, and the time differences makes it a bit complicated to find times to meet,” Le Grand said.
For some remote students, the stark time zone differences have turned their sleeping schedules upside down.
“It is especially difficult for people who live in the East Asia region,” Nagata said. “One of my classes is at 2 am, so I actually shifted my sleep schedule to accommodate that. I have been going to sleep at 6 am and waking up at 2 pm.”
Nagata is not alone. Shellie Hu ’24, a student from China, wraps up her last classes of the day at 1:45 am.
Despite the challenges, students feel that the mentor groups during orientation and supportive professors make them feel welcome in the community. The only wish that was voiced by all interviewees was the organization of a Flower Sunday for remote students.
“The Flower Sunday seemed really cool,” Nagata said. “I’m hoping there will be something like that for the remote students.”
Many students feel frustrated that the College is not doing enough to include remote students in campus activities.
“The Flower Sunday event could have been done remotely. We could have been paired with a remote Big,” Shafqat said. “I don’t like that events are different for on-campus and remote students. We are still one community, we are still one college.”
While there was no official Flower Sunday event for the remote First-years, several upperclassmen organized a virtual Flower Sunday experience for some of their remote siblings.
“On Facebook, an upperclassman was offering to be a Big, and she made me this presentation with flowers on it, and it was so cute,” Le Grand said. “Not being able to be on campus was obviously super sad, but this virtual experience was so special because someone has taken their time to make a presentation and that was super sweet. I absolutely loved that.”
Heartwarming stories like these have highlighted the community’s ability to overcome challenges together. Remote First-years certainly have not found the task of managing the new workload, figuring out their sleeping schedule and maintaining social life easy.
However, there is strength in numbers.
“At least we get to … know that some people are in [a] similar situation as we are,” Le Grand.