Feb 5, 2021 | LIFE | By Mahnoor Rehman | Illustration by Bibi Powers

In the midst of the pandemic, the international winter-start students arrived on campus on Jan. 19. The winter-start group this year is relatively bigger than the groups that Colorado College has accommodated before. Students arrived from Iran, Pakistan, Kosovo, Costa Rica, Uruguay, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Morocco. As a student from Pakistan, I participated in the international student orientation hosted by the International Student & Scholar Services and the International Students Organization leaders.

The winter-start orientation took place over Zoom, so that students could log in from their dorms on campus as they practiced enhanced social distancing. On the first day, we began with a few icebreakers during which people introduced themselves and shared some interesting facts.

Later, we were bombarded with heaps of information about taxes, health care, and academic life at CC. Donna Beziou and Marlene Arnold from ISSS also presented slideshows about how to stay legal in the U.S. and recommendations for what to do in emergency situations.

Other sessions in the orientation included anti-discriminatory discussions, specifically about the racial issues that international students and POC have to face on and off campus. We were informed about the various ways through which CC is tackling racism and about the important policies being put in place to ensure that the CC community remains a safe and secure place for people from diverse backgrounds.

We had guest speakers talk about their own experience as people of color at CC, giving much clearer insight on the topic. I thought the session was quite informative and necessary and created awareness about the anti-discriminatory work happening on campus, not just by the staff and faculty but also by the various student groups.

The NSO sessions continued the following week when our group of international students finally got to meet the domestic students virtually. Some of the highlights included a discussion regarding Title IX and presentations about the Butler Center. We were also allowed to choose our own adventure sessions in the afternoon, which gave students opportunities to learn about campus activities that they are most interested in.

The most exciting and fun part for me during these two weeks was the Priddy group experience and social events that usually happened between 9 to 10 p.m. Priddy group meetings were a friendly and comfortable space that provided an opportunity to build conversations and make friends in these strange times of COVID-19. Although the virtual nature of interaction did create some barriers and awkwardness, it turned out to be a positive experience overall.

Late-night social events were mostly student-led and optional. I participated in a few sessions related to arts, yoga, and meditation. I found them to be super relaxing and enjoyable after the whole day of processing college information. We were also able to grab some amazing free kits containing arts and crafts, yoga and spa supplies, puzzles, and fun games from Campus Activities in the mornings. These activities let people take some time off the screen and practice self-care in order to remain healthy, active, and motivated for Block 5!

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