By Sohan Gade ’23 (he/him)

First year students following the Honor Code Signing. Photo by Allie Hay ’24

March 12th, 2020: the start of remote instruction for Davidson students. Nationwide, the rapid spread of COVID-19 forced schools to adopt an online form of instruction.

Late Spring 2020 Semester: Graduation ceremonies, prom dances, and senior activities were cancelled for high school seniors and Davidson’s Class of 2024. These closures led to uncertainty on whether colleges, including Davidson, would reopen for the fall semester. 

Summer 2020: A long awaited and highly anticipated email from President Quillen confirmed the college would be residential in Fall 2020, with several precautions against outbreaks in place. Many students, especially our new Wildcats, met this news with joy and celebration. 

August 13th and 15th, 2020: As part of a phased move-in process, the Davidson Class of 2024 first set foot on-campus. Earlier in the spring, they were seniors in high school, looking forward to the usual “senioritis,” dancing at prom, and participating in pranks. While this was taken away, they now approached college with hope for starting a new chapter and creating long-lasting memories with their friends in college. 

Orientation 

<Picture of Orientation> 

This year’s orientation was significantly different from usual. In-person interaction was minimized, and the traditional Honor Code signing ceremony at the Duke Family Performance Hall could not take place. 

Despite these differences, a few activities were still able to happen in-person, and these were beneficial in creating a campus community for the first-years. Orientation Team Members were still allowed to have one-on-one chats with the first-year students in their groups.

This year’s common reading book was Just Mercy by civil rights activist and lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, last year’s Reynolds Lecturer. The book discussed the importance of empathy and resilience, through Stevenson’s experiences of fighting for justice and equity in America.

“Honestly, I’m just glad we got to do some activities in-person. I thought my group was great about mask-wearing and distancing, and I feel like us being able to meet face-to-face really maximized everyone’s engagement,” said Sam Goldfarb ‘22, an Orientation Team Leader.  

Humanities Program 

The Humanities Program allows first-years to engage with different disciplines, such as Philosophy, Psychology, and History. The program is traditionally accompanied by a short pre-orientation program — Sapere Aude — Latin for “Dare to Know.” Sapere Aude takes place in the mountains of North Carolina at Banner Elk YMCA. Due to restrictions on gathering, Sapere Aude was fully remote this year.  

“Sapere Aude was an interesting experience, because we didn’t really know anyone else, but I feel that the faculty and [Assistant Teachers] facilitated communication, and it would be great to do this in person!” Nikhil Basu ‘24 said.  

Humanities Fellow Andrew Denny ‘23, who participated in the program last year, commented, “We did the best possible job we could to engage everyone and welcome them to Davidson, given the circumstances,” Denny said. 

Making Friends 

With limitations on guests and in-person gatherings, the first-years have had a different experience with making friends than in previous years.  

Because of the COVID-19 restrictions and the college’s commitment to “shared responsibility,” many students have resorted to electronic platforms to help them meet their classmates. “A lot of people actually met [me] through Instagram, social media, and the [Class of ‘24] GroupMe,” said Ridley Browder ‘24. 

Other students found friends through organizations that they are involved in on campus. “I have also gotten involved in a few clubs/activities on campus that have helped me meet people such as Davidson Outdoors, the PE workout classes, and CPE,” First-year SGA senator, Kaia Larsen ‘24 said.  “It is kind of difficult being a first-year due to the COVID restrictions, but I still have been able to meet plenty of people.”

Davidson College is known for having a close-knit community, with students coming from 48 states and 47 countries. “It’s great [that] I was still able to meet people from all over, despite everything,” Andrew Rice ‘24 said. 

International Students 

Davidson is proud to have students from every continent except Antarctica. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed most first-year international students’ arrivals to campus.  

Felipe Dominguez ‘24, from Quito, Ecuador, took a gap semester but is still finding ways to feel included in the Wildcat family. “I’ve been talking with my roommate [Max Mears ’24], but it’s one thing to talk about it and another to experience it. [From what I’ve heard], I hope that I can go [to school] in January.” 

Malavika Kalani ‘24 from Kolkata, India echoed that sentiment. She explained that there were a few challenges in communication with her classmates but is looking forward to arriving on campus in the spring. “The time difference makes it harder, “ she said. “Most of my classes encourage collaboration with classmates, so I get to talk to other people. I hope to be on campus super soon!”   

There are also a few first-year international students who have been allowed to come, braved through quarantine, and made a new home in a different environment.  

<Sandro Chumashvilli ‘24>

Or <Mackenzie Morris ‘24> or both  

Overall  

When talking about his overall experience, Michael Adenew ‘24 thanked his classmates, professors, and the COVID-19 Response Team in making it possible for him to be on campus. “This year is rough but it’s what you make of it. While social distancing, the class of ‘24 has shown its ability to connect with people responsibly and has set a high precedent for others to follow,” said Adenew.  

Jackson Renfro ‘24 expressed gratitude that he was able to just be on campus. “I’ve made some of my best friends here, friends I can count on and trust. So, even with everything going on, I think just being here is enough,” Renfro said. 

While there was no Cake Race, Flickerball season, or in-person Honor Code signing, the Class of 2024 has, without a doubt, made the most out of the situation! And we are so happy to have them here.