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A first year unlike any other

Twin XL sheets? Check. Shower caddy? Shower shoes? Check. Dorm decorations? Check. 

Move-in date? Postponed.

This news came only two weeks before most first-years were supposed to move into their dorms. A staggered move-in was supposed to begin Aug. 10. Now, it will start on Sept. 14.

Many incoming first-years were not only frustrated about the announcement itself but also upset that it came so late.

“I was under the impression that I would be moving in two weeks from the date that they released that we wouldn’t be moving in, and they made it sound like it was the plan all along,” said Kat Strah, an incoming first-year from Lebanon, Ohio. “My friends and I had gone out and bought stuff for our dorms. I was really kind of mad.”

First-year students have three options to choose from for the fall semester. They can move into their dorm in September and take classes on campus when they start, take classes remotely for the whole semester or forego attending for a while and take a gap year or semester. 

Strah chose to do remote learning while subleasing an off-campus house. She doesn’t have high hopes for being on-campus this semester.

“At the rate COVID cases are going, I’m not sure I believe that move-in will actually begin in September,” she said.

Having taken multiple online classes at Miami through College Credit Plus (CCP), Strah feels confident in taking a remote semester.

Some of her peers, however, aren’t as optimistic. Incoming first-year from Zanesville, Ohio, Dylan Ansel worries about the five weeks of remote learning.

“I don’t learn as much when I’m online, at least I didn’t last year. It’s a lot harder to motivate myself to get up and do the work,” he said.

When he first read Crawford’s email, Ansel said he wasn’t surprised but was still upset. He sees the good side though, knowing that the university will have more time to get acquainted with the new safety measures.

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Mainly, Ansel is afraid of missing out on typical first-year activities if students aren’t able to move in this semester. 

“I feel like you’d miss on a lot of the college experience,” he said. “Like new friends and all the clubs and activities and sports.”

Brandon Stoia, an incoming first-year from Parma, Ohio, shares this sentiment.

As a member of the swim team, Stoia will be able to move in in August for practice but knows it won’t be the same.

“We won’t be able to go out and experience [night life]. We won’t have our in-person classes. They’ll still be online … so that kind of takes away from everything, but I’m just thankful for the opportunity to actually be on campus,” he said.

Although he understands the decision to push back move-in, Stoia dislikes how Miami has gone about it.

“I don’t think we should have gotten the message so late,” he said. “There should be some more communication between Miami and its students.”

Starting the semester remotely also poses challenges for Buffy Stoll Turton, director of Orientation and Transition Programs. 

For orientation this year, students completed modules on a Canvas course and met virtually with their Student Orientation Undergraduate Leaders (SOULs) and advisors. Welcome Weekend featured online Zoom sessions for academic college welcomes, meetings with SOULs, MAP events and other programming.

Other welcome programs will be held virtually until at least Sept. 14. Then, some events will take place in person with fewer attendees and required RSVP.

“We had to pause, step back and really reimagine what it looks like to welcome new students to Miami,” Stoll Turton said.

Orientation and Transition Programs spend a lot of time creating materials that students can access online as needed during their first year. These resources serve as an introduction to academic and student life, covering topics such as the Miami Plan and remote learning.

Stoll Turton says it’s important to do more than give first-years a bunch of information and that the key to welcoming them is to have conversations and build relationships.

Now, Stoll Turton is collaborating with Residence Life to prepare for move-in week. 

“Our role is to support all students in their transition to the university,” she said. “If students are not sure what to do, who to ask, how to access a particular resource, I want everyone to understand that they can call us.”