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What’s Penn State’s Virtual New Student Orientation Really Like?

Some call it hell. Some call it the weekend they met their lifelong best friends. The rest of us simply call it New Student Orientation (NSO).

Whether fortunately or unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic forced incoming freshmen to attend their NSO sessions virtually this summer while campus is closed.

There’s something oddly comforting about eating your first Flipps chicken tenders with other anxious freshmen during NSO weekend. We can’t speak for everyone, but staring at new faces through a two-hour Zoom call somehow seems much, much worse.

Fortunately, incoming freshman Jiana Marzano sat down with us to talk about what virtual NSO was really like.

The orientation events consisted of an hour-long university welcome livestream, a two-hour Zoom call with other incoming freshmen, interactive modules, and a one-on-one meeting with an academic adviser.

The welcome livestream explained the layout of the virtual NSO, featured a clip from the cast of Results Will Vary, consisting of students from Penn State’s School of Theatre, and some general information about Penn State.

Following the livestream, freshmen experienced a two-hour Zoom session (yes, TWO hours) with 25 other incoming students and two student orientation leaders.

The orientation leaders led wide-eyed incoming freshmen through infamously cheesy icebreakers, let the students introduce themselves, and allowed them to #network and exchange their social media handles. Get those follower counts up, kiddos!

Marzano didn’t particularly enjoy the awkwardly long Zoom call and has no intention to meet up with the other students once they arrive on campus. Sure, it might be two hours that she’ll never get back, but at least she can expect 27 more likes on every Instagram post.

Marzano was able to Zoom through the online orientation modules in just 30 minutes despite the expected time being three to four hours for completion.

“The modules were through Canvas and they gave us information regarding education at Penn State, out of class learning opportunities, health and safety, housing, dining, and residence life. It also guided me through preparing for my academic advising,” Marzano said. “I learned the most through the modules compared to the Zoom and university welcome video.”

Freshmen had their first taste of Zoom University when they needed to complete short quizzes after making their way through the modules. Despite the hassle, this seemed to provide useful information regarding how campus tends to operate.

“After the virtual NSO, I definitely feel more comfortable and confident going into my first semester,” Marzano said.

Three days after the initial orientation, Marzano virtually met with her academic adviser for an hour to talk about scheduling her classes. Her adviser guided her through every step of selecting her courses and making her schedule.

“Many of the concerns I had about my first semester were answered during the virtual NSO since they gave us a lot of time on Zoom with the orientation leaders to ask questions,” Marzano said. “My academic advisor, orientation leaders, and especially the modules all guided me through everything and gave me a lot of the information I need to know for my first year at Penn State.”


Editor’s Note: Jiana Marzano is the sister of Frankie Marzano, an Onward State staff writer. He was not involved in the production of this story.

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About the Author

Colleen Nersten

Colleen is a washed-up biology grad and former associate editor. Her legacy will live on through stories like “10 Questions With State College Sensation ‘Hot UPS Bae’”. If you’re a STEM girlie, this is your sign to take the leap of faith and learn to write. It’s pretty fun. Colleen misses the hate mail and can be reached at [email protected] or via LinkedIn.

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