As we finished off the first semester of the school year fully remote, many are wondering how this experience has been for the subbies, considering that they are starting in a brand new school virtually.
The subbie buddy program has historically been a big part of helping incoming subbies adjust to Uni. Upperclassmen subbie buddies are paired with subbies to talk to and be someone to reach out to for questions. The subbie buddy program also hosts countless events throughout the school year, ranging from subbie dodgeball to subbie retreat to quarterly events such as Green Street bubble tea runs and mafia games.
Attending school virtually has made these kinds of activities not possible, so the subbie buddy program has undergone a lot of changes in order to conform with these restrictions. Subbie buddy leader Danbi Choi explains that they have decided to replace the big events with weekly hangouts, with the theme of letting them talk among themselves instead of structuring too many ice breakers.
“One of the biggest differences that I see is that with a lot of our events, we focused more on giving them a chance to organically know each other,” Choi said.
This time is really important for the new subbies, since they are missing out on being able to simply talk to another and make friends.
This semester, bigger gestures the subbie buddies have done include an online orientation and home-delivered goodie bags to replace the locker decorating tradition. The subbie buddies purchased gifts and wrote notes, and put together bags to send to subbies’ homes.
Along with this, the subbie buddies are continuing to come up with new ideas. Upcoming events that subbies can look forward to include more Among Us and other games at hangouts, and the subbie mascot. The subbie mascot will be a subbie-designed mascot, and will work similarly to a traveling trophy. Choi hopes this will be another way the subbie class can share memories together and create a tighter bond.
Building consistent bonds with the subbies has been much more difficult in a Zoom setting. Rather than being able to have a quick conversation and say hi in the hallways, not being in-person presents challenges for the subbie buddies to put more effort into reaching out. They have been trying to shoot quick emails to their subbies often, and holding monthly check-ins over Zoom.
“[Reaching out] is just something that has to be consistent. You can’t build a relationship if it’s [checking in] once every 5 months,” Choi says.
Even with the subbie buddies spending much more time into talking to their subbies, there are still inevitable miscommunications that go both ways. With email being the only form of communication, subbie buddy emails can get missed or not replied to. In meetings, not seeing one anothers’ faces can present challenges in building closer friendships.
“It can also be uncomfortable when someone is constantly reaching out to you. I think our subbie buddies are doing a really great job of trying to reach out, and push them to get to know each other and step out of their comfort zone, but also just respecting their boundaries,” Choi emphasizes.
The subbies need to be given a chance to make subbie-to-subbie friendships, as those are the ones which will last for the five years to come.
Despite all of the ups-and-downs of figuring out how to connect with subbies remotely, the subbie buddies’ efforts seem to be paying off. Subbie Cora Lewis-Patterson feels that although some in-person events would have been great, the online environment at Uni is also working out well for her.
“Honestly, I feel like I am getting to know people better than I would if we were in person, because we probably wouldn’t have had the Discord to talk in. I feel like we got to know each other a lot more [there],” Lewis-Patterson describes.
She feels comfortable with her subbie buddies and is glad for someone to offer advice and ask questions from.
The fall semester has passed quickly, but the subbie buddy program and new subbie class are overcoming the challenges, with much more good things to come.