New Student Week: A first year’s perspective
Experience New Student Week through the eyes of a first year!
Carleton is full of adventures, from exploring new fields of study, to digging for deeper knowledge in an already studied subject, to leaving campus to immerse yourself in a country you’ve never been to before.
But before all of that gets to happen, you have to embark on that very first adventure into the unknown: move-in day. You park your car at the residence hall you will call home for the rest of the year and feel your heart beating in your chest. As your bags are being carried out of the car by a flock of enthusiastic Carls, you look at your shiny new OneCard and ask yourself, “What is happening?!”
Luckily, there was little time for me to dwell on the looming change as it was already happening around me. I was greeted by a smiling upperclassman in a cow hat the moment I stepped out of the car, and the next thing I knew I was being escorted up the staircase of Myers Hall and into my dorm for the first time (it was bigger than expected). I unpacked my possessions and my roommate and I conversed about the shocking amount of storage in our room, as well as the pure athleticism needed to climb onto a lofted bed. I had been prepared for initial awkwardness, but things went surprisingly well, and my roommate even brought me a banana from breakfast as a housewarming gift.
By 3:00 p.m. we made our way to the Bald Spot and were introduced to our New Student Week groups. We played a few icebreaker games, tried to remember each other’s names, and stayed together as a group as we walked to the Rec Center. We listened to welcome speeches given by President Byerly, Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Art D. Rodriguez ’96, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Michelle Mattson, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Carolyn Livingston, and Carleton Student Association President Jancyn Appel ’23. After the welcome, we went to the Bald Spot to carry out one more tradition before saying goodbye to our families: the Frisbee toss. As the Frisbees rained down around us, our families looked on from the outside, taking pictures or introducing themselves to others. We picked a Frisbee to return to a stranger later in the term and then it was time to say goodbye.
Final hugs, repeated well wishes, last-minute reminders to get enough sleep, more hugs. We turned and walked away from each other, then lined up with our New Student Group for a picnic dinner on the Bald Spot, weighing trepidation with optimism, and goodbyes with more hellos. After dinner, we returned to the Rec Center to listen to a panel talk about the community at Carleton. One of the first things I learned in New Student Week was that Carleton has a love for organizations, clubs and acronyms. There are dozens of organizations and offices dedicated to making Carleton a welcoming, inclusive and equitable place and they each have their own acronym and particular focus. It was exciting to discover all of those resources at my fingertips, but at the same time it felt nearly impossible to remember what each group’s acronym was.
Before bed, all first years attended residence hall floor meetings to meet our RAs and neighbors. We were served cookies iced in blue and yellow, participated in a few more icebreakers (what is your go-to midnight snack?) and learned hall rules. It was still relatively early, but I fell asleep the second my head touched the pillow.
The next morning started early as we gathered into New Student Week groups and attended our first #CarlTalk, this one on well-being and consent. I appreciated getting to hear from student speakers about their perspectives and personal experiences. Later, there were a few optional activities. I went to “Music Fest” in the Weitz, which focused on all of the music programs that Carleton has to offer. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to meet other students who had similar musical interests as me. I checked out a music locker for my instrument and took a peek at the practice rooms (very spacious), then got deliciously lost wandering up and down staircases, chatting and discovering more of the Weitz. That night, everyone attended an event introducing us to the CCCE and followed that by learning many of the locations for offices on campus through an event called Passport To Campus. Passport To Campus was a chance to walk around Carleton, led by our New Student Week guides, as we learned the lay of the land and got to hear from students in each of the offices as they shared some of the things they specialized in. The event was followed by pizza, and then more socializing.
By now, I could recognize faces, but the bigger challenge was remembering the names that went with them. Luckily, everyone was in the same boat. Maybe we didn’t remember each other’s names, but some other piece of trivia from a conversation would pop into our heads: “Do you have a twin brother?” or “Aren’t you from Oregon?” and a conversation would start to flow.
The next days followed similarly with more talks and events, new people and also some familiar faces. Though there were a lot of #CarlTalks, it was reassuring to know that Carleton was aware of the bumps in the road we might face, and that there were dozens of offices and organizations with creative acronyms designed to help you take care of yourself—from TRIO, to SWAs, to ITS. Hearing from V.P. Rodriguez and many of the student speakers about feelings of imposter syndrome, and being encouraged to believe in yourself, reminded me that we were all having the same experience. Another highlight was the opportunity to meet President Byerly and then getting to eat apple crisp and play lawn games at Nutting House.
Not all parts of New Student Week were meetings and talks. On Friday night, all first years gathered on the fields behind the Rec Center in teams grouped by residence hall floor to compete in NOlympics. The NOlympics are a set of competitions and challenges (think: water balloon toss) that each Carleton class partakes in as first years, and a well-loved part of New Student Week. Each floor dressed on a theme: Smurfs, Teletubbies, president with bodyguards, Granola Kids, and St. Olaf students were just a few. The games were a highlight for many students, as was the Variety Show the next day, where the class of 2026 showcased their unique and entertaining acts. I cheered as loudly as I could as our class gave standing ovations after performers read dad jokes or got their legs waxed on stage.
The adventure was unfolding and suddenly it didn’t look so scary anymore. Better than the events, was the journey of making new friends. Finding people to sit with at meals and finding the courage to go up to someone and introduce yourself, invite someone for a dorm tour, or simply ask to borrow a roll of tape. Already things are starting to blur together in my mind. There were so many exciting and fun moments, it feels hard to choose just one favorite part. However, if pressed, I’d say that my favorite moment of New Student Week had nothing to do with programming, or even anyone I knew. Strangely enough, it was watching the upperclassmen move back to campus at the end of the week. Hearing voices float up from the street through my dorm window, the shouts of recognition and genuine enthusiasm saying, even without words, that it had been too long. Watching people run across the Bald Spot to hug, or bump into each other in the dining hall and seeing the huge uncontainable smiles spreading over their faces made me wonder what people I will meet this year who I will be overcome with joy to see after a summer away. What new memories will I make at Carleton that I can’t even imagine now?
The adventure is just beginning…