Welcome Week is a fixture of NYU. It’s a time when over 6,000 first-years are introduced to the university all at once, and are together for likely the only time other than their graduation years later. Although created as an event to ease students into the intimidating world that is New York City, Welcome Week’s summer camp-like feel and lack of genuine community events make orientation feel like a forced, awkward, drawn-out initiation that ultimately leaves the youngest class on campus with more questions than they came in with.
There’s an unrealistic expectation that life-long friendships will be made through each Welcome Week event, while the reality is quite the opposite. Instead of attending individually, most people travel in the same groups to different events. You meet people in line, but it’s the same five minute conversations about where you’re from and what you’re studying. And the ultimate kiss of death to these potential friendships is the fact that you’re probably never going to see these people again. At random events you meet random people. There’s no singular interest in these huge marquee events, at least no one common interest specific enough to connect on. Yes, everyone loves comedy, but as an audience member at a comedy show, you’re watching a performance. There is no conversation between you and the person sitting next to you. The only thread holding everyone in the room together is that you all saw a comedian make a joke about the real estate major in the 1950s shirt. The most advertised events are like this, and there aren’t opportunities to chat up peers and actually connect with them.
Lasting connections are better made on smaller levels. You connect with people who share your interests or culture and fortunately, NYU has a myriad of clubs and organizations for every and any passion. Highlighting smaller clubs and organizations who want first-years to join their communities would provide the opportunities necessary to build friendships. Yet all that was advertised were the big marquee events like the Broadway Cabaret, the Professional Comedy Show and Drag Bingo. While clubs use Welcome Week to reach new students, first years aren’t even told which clubs exist at NYU because Club Fest is held after Welcome Week. Had first-years been aware of the clubs they’re interested in and their events, then perhaps real friendships and communities could have been formed, as was envisioned. To feel community during the first week is vital. It’s the week during which NYU will feel the most unfamiliar and first-years will feel the most insecure. Without the right resources, it can be all too easy for newcomers to feel intensely preoccupied with whether they’ll ever find their place within the university.
NYU Mobile would have been a great solution to further the reach of these club events, if it were an intuitive and efficient app. On the app, all of the events appear as one large column, usually consisting of up to 150 options per day. There’s no search bar and while filters do exist, they somehow only complicate matters further by breaking down the innumerable events into categories, some being as vague as “Getting Involved” or simply “Welcome Week.” Many of the events were informative, thoughtfully planned and genuinely fun, but attendance was limited because of a poorly designed app.
Welcome Week happens every year, and for over 6,000 first-years, it is expected to be an overwhelming and confusing event. NYU, however, has the ability to implement changes to these issues that go consistently unsolved. Perhaps next year, we can rely on NYU to improve this week-long event so that first-years may finally have the chance to connect and create community — a rarity at this university, and the city.
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A version of this appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 4 print edition.
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