Belles Beginnings orients students to college life
Mia Marroquin | Wednesday, August 12, 2020
As first-year students packed their cars and drove away from home, they arrived on the Saint Mary’s campus greeted by a Belles Beginnings schedule and events designed to help them get to know their peers.
Unlike past years, Belles Beginnings was spread over three days with students only attending one day of orientation events. These sessions included academic success tips, conflict resolution, student panels and student services presentations. Students were assigned the same but rotating Belles Beginnings schedules based on their move-in date.
Director of first-year experience and retention Shay Schneider planned and facilitated most of the Belles Beginnings sessions and partnered with Residence Life directors and student leaders for assistance at these sessions. One of these student leaders was student body president and senior Giavanna Paradiso.
“My role during Belles Beginnings was to run around and help wherever needed,” Schneider said in an email. “It gave me a look to every corner of the first-years’ first few days.”
Students were able to attend Belles Beginnings events during the day and student-sponsored events in the evening.
The Saint Mary’s tradition of the Closing of the Circle continued this year, though some adjustments were made. This symbolic event of students gathering with their classmates in physical and intellectual space is countered with the Opening of the Circle during senior week.
This year the Closing of the Circle was on the athletics fields as an alternative to the Le Mans Green to allow for proper space between each girl, Paradiso said.
“They all held a ribbon, which was cut to let them keep a piece that only they came in contact with and now can tie the ribbon to their water bottle or backpack where they’ll always see it,” Paradiso said. “It’s been so cute to see them all with their ribbons already.”
While first-year Kayla Bucio did not attend the information sessions of Belles Beginnings, she attended the Closing of the Circle Saturday and said her experience was a nice way to see all her classmates in one place.
“BellesFest after was another fun way to interact with my classmates,” Bucio said. “I got to interact with more girls and continue to meet more people. I feel that these types of events are important because in class there’s not much time to interact as much, especially when you’re new.”
Bucio said she enjoyed that the events were engaging and fun while still following the College’s COVID policies.
“It made me feel safe and like everyone that planned it really cared,” she said.
Paradiso said she considered the Closing of the Circle and the BellesFest events Saturday evening to be the biggest successes of the week.
“It was just so amazing to have the privilege to officially welcome the class of 2024 into the sisterhood and tradition of Saint Mary’s,” she said. “After that emotional moment, we had one great big socially-distanced dance party. I loved being able to meet all the first-years, but even more than that, I loved watching them meet each other and become friends.”