This year, for the first time in over 40 years, Welcome Weekend did not take place on a weekend.
This was just one of many ways in which COVID-19 affected the way that Taylor University welcomed the Class of 2024. For many of the upperclassmen, Welcome Weekend this year was bitter-sweet as they compared COVID-altered events to ones they had experienced their freshman year.
Sophomore Ellie Malmquist wishes the freshmen could have experienced communion in the gym. Junior Rebekah Settles wishes the freshmen could have experienced Taylor’s “Beach Bash.” For other upperclassmen, this year’s Welcome Weekend was made bittersweet by the inability to hug incoming freshmen, the absence of an all-school Polar Pops run and the restrictions placed on “bro-sis” wing events.
Yet for many of the incoming freshmen, COVID-19 has had surprisingly little impact on their Welcome Weekend experience.
“I for sure was expecting the rules,” freshman Kennedy Cockerham said. “I think they’ve been a little more strict than I expected, but I think that’s to be appreciated.”
Other freshmen agreed that the guidelines established during Welcome Weekend were unsurprising. For many incoming freshmen, Taylor’s new COVID regulations mirror ones that were implemented in their high schools, camp jobs and other summertime activities.
“Rules-wise, I expected all the ones that are in place,” freshman Matthew VanDerNoord said.
COVID-19 restrictions have been less of a shock for the incoming freshmen than for many of the returning upperclassmen, but something else caught the Class of 2024 by surprise this past weekend. The freshmen anticipated the effects COVID would have on their orientation, but something else affected the Class of 2024’s Welcome Weekend experience in ways they had not anticipated.
What surprised the freshmen? The Taylor community.
“People are super helpful; all of the staff is amazing and really nice and really helpful,” freshman Janie Allen said.
Members of the Class of 2024 encountered a community that welcomed them and came alongside them in unexpected ways.
“I was surprised by how welcoming the people were that I met,” Cockerham said.
Although COVID-19 has certainly altered the way that Taylor University operates, it has not changed the heart of Taylor University: a community of individuals who seek to love others in a Christ-like manner. Even though Welcome Weekend looked different this year, the Class of 2024 was welcomed and loved well, if differently than in past years. As a result, many of the incoming freshmen have nothing but positive feedback to offer on this past weekend.
“It’s all been very new, but in a surprisingly good way,” VanDerNoord said. “I really like how everything has gone down, so I’m glad (Taylor’s administration) did it this way.”
Few freshmen would describe their COVID-altered Welcome Weekend experience negatively.
“I don’t think I would change anything (about Welcome Weekend), I feel like everything’s gone the way that it should,” said Cockerham.
Even upperclassmen found themselves surprised by the creativity and flexibility of Taylor’s administration.
“I really appreciated the way (Taylor’s administration) did everything,” Malmquist said. “Honestly, overall, it’s been pretty similar to last year other than the rules about social distancing and masks, which are hard to get used to.”
Although many freshmen have had a positive Welcome Weekend experience, life at Taylor will look different for the Class of 2024 in the coming days than it has for freshmen in past years. With this in mind, Malmquist offers the following advice to the Class of 2024:
“Even though everything looks different this year and a lot of events are going to be kind of different, and even though we have to be socially distant, don’t be afraid to still reach out to people and get involved in things.”