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A fresh take: A look at the freshman experience of the first semester

Dec. 9 marked the end of the first college semester for the freshman class, serving as both an academic and a social transition. 

For many students, college is their first time living away from home, and a large number of students travel from around the globe to attend Rollins. This transition into a new environment highlights the importance of ensuring students are made to feel welcome on campus.

“I think there was a lot of emphasis to make freshmen feel included from the beginning,”  Amit Sewnauth (‘26) said, giving the school a 9/10 rating with helping freshmen feel welcome.

Rollins is also accommodating for the incoming international students.

“They’re there for us when we need them,” said Em Nguyen (‘26), whose admissions officer picked her up from the airport at the start of the semester after she flew in from Vietnam.

Grace Horton-Tavera (‘26) however had a different opinion. While she felt Rollins had put forth effort in welcoming freshmen, she also mentioned that these efforts might not always be successful, as the experiences of each person vary.

“I do definitely think that they’re trying,” she said. “I just don’t know if it’s one-hundred percent effective.”

Even with support from the faculty and staff, the transition to college is not always smooth. This applies regardless of whether a student is from Florida, out-of-state, or overseas; as college is an adjustment to a new lifestyle in an often unfamiliar place.

For Horton-Tavera, an in-state student, being from Florida did not impact her semester.

“I might still be in Florida, but it’s a completely different community here with my own little second family,” she said.

“I was getting used to Florida and specifically Winter Park, which was not that hard being someone from the Northeast, because it’s sort of designed to appeal to us anyway, but definitely I could feel myself having more of an adjustment than people who were more familiar with the South,” said Sewnauth, who moved from in New York.

Being from Vietnam, Nguyen discussed how the main transition she experienced was with language. “I do feel a bit, at times, isolated,” said Nguyen, “simply because I went from hearing and speaking Vietnamese almost every day to barely any.”

Beyond the transition to campus life, there are different expectations that students have before they arrive on campus, regarding everything from academic rigor to campus life.

Sewnauth, discussed how he entered the semester expecting challenging academics and deeper course engagement, an expectation he said was met. 

Sewnauth also brought up the juxtaposition between Rollins’ country-club-esque ambiance presented during the application process and the rigorous academic demeanor.

Emma Carmichael (‘26), said she came to Rollins with the idea that she would run into people she knew while walking around campus. “You definitely don’t feel alone on campus if you go out of your way to do any social activity ever.” 

According to freshman Nguyen, there were multiple aspects of the Rollins experience that did not meet her expectations, one of them being the small class sizes. She stated that most of her classes had at least twenty-five students. Another thing she did not expect was to receive the amount of incident notifications that she did within the first month of school.

Though overall the experiences of the interviewees seemed positive, there are certain aspects that could potentially be improved for the upcoming semester.

One issue Nguyen pointed out was a lack of transparency. She stated how this is something that was particularly frustrating during the hurricane and registration. During both of these incidents students expressed confusion regarding campus-wide communications on the matters which were later clarified in follow up emails sent by administration.

Another potential room for improvement expressed is the element of inclusion. “Maybe more action in terms of diversity and accessibility,” Horton-Tavera said. “I feel like there’s a lot more talk than actual change being made in that aspect.”

“We talk a lot about not leaving people out, and then maybe through our actions we don’t always do that,” mentioned Sewnauth. “I think everybody does that to some extent, so we could all try to be a little more ‘Mister Rogers-ish.’”

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