Assimilating vs. Isolating: New Students Integrate for Block 5

Securing housing, both on campus and off, is often one of the most stressful processes for Colorado College students. Miscommunication between students and administrators and other various logistics make finding a place to live a far more complicated predicament than one might initially assume.

Students entering CC in the winter, however, face different issues entirely. Some winter starts are placed with other winter starts, while others live with fall starts who have an empty space in their room. Kelly Culshaw, a current senior winter start, was placed in a forced triple in Mathias with two other winter starts when she moved in. “Some of the living situations are much less ideal than others,” Culshaw said. “I had no issues with my living situation except the small size of the room. It was much easier having roommates who were also winter starts.”

Unlike Culshaw, first-year Francesca Grandonico was placed in a Loomis room with a fall start whose roommate moved out. “I chose a random roommate and had no preference for housing, but it could’ve been difficult if I had certain things in mind,” Grandonico said. “I am very happy with my housing, but a few of my friends are in study rooms or other rooms with roommates who have had a single first semester.” She thinks that there are pros and cons with each option. “It’s nice to be integrated with regular fall starts, but it sometimes feels like winter starts are getting thrown into the rooms that no one wants to be in. I was lucky to have so many winter starts in my hall so I could meet a bunch when we were the only students on campus.”

Aside from housing, assimilating winter starts into the CC community raises other issues as well. Since they’re placed in First Year Experience classes with one another for Block 5 and Block 6, they’re not in a class with any fall start students until the last two blocks of the year. “It’s nice to meet other winter starts from different grades who are super welcoming and friendly, but there hasn’t been any integration yet with other fall start freshmen besides in our dorms,” said Grandonico.  “Because our FYEs only have winter start students, it seems like we are somewhat secluded in our winter start bubble.”

Junior Hailey Dennis has both served on WSO panels and advised winter starts as a resident advisor in Loomis and Ticknor. “A lot of the time, it feels like winter starts are kind of an afterthought,” Dennis said. “It’s hard because they’re thrown into this college life, and it can be isolating to be in their own FYE. It’s hard to create a balance between isolation and assimilation in this case,” she said.

Similar to past years, the public study spaces in Slocum have been turned into dorm rooms for winter starts, which affects both the students placed in them and those who no longer have a quiet place to study. “I try to focus programming to be inclusive of new people, but it can be hard,” said Dennis. “There’s a big, helpful push when students start school in the winter, but for better or for worse they’re thrown into the mix.”

In addition to the issues of finding a place for winter starts to live, the administration must also assimilate transfer and Fall Semester Abroad students into the general CC population. “I spoke on this panel for WSO, FSA, and transfer students, and they were all pushed together into one group,” said Dennis. “These students have had very different experiences, so to treat them all like incoming freshmen doesn’t really work. The questions being asked by the students and the parents in each group often weren’t helpful or useful to a lot of the other students there.”  

Dennis also commented on the problems with placing transfer students with incoming first-years in freshman dorms. “The transfers tend to just be placed wherever. I almost think that transfer students and Fall Semester Away students are better suited to one another than the other winter starts,” said Dennis. “There are these three distinct little groups, but the administration makes it easier on themselves by grouping all of them together.”

Despite some of the problems, Dennis “thinks the winter start program at CC is really great because it helps prepare all these students from different backgrounds to enter school in the middle of the year.” Grandonico felt similarly about the program and had an extra appreciation for her WSO trip. “I went to Baca and worked at Crestone Middle School,” Grandonico said.  “My leaders were excellent at assimilating us off campus by informing us about their personal experiences as winter starts as well as giving us examples of situations we might face in our first few days of school.”

Whether they’re winter starts, FSA, or transfer, students entering the college halfway through the year all cite the support that they’re given from their orientation leaders and FYE or transfer mentors as crucial to their successful integration into CC’s close-knit community.

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