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#GDTBATH: Josh Howard and Cameron Torrey

Josh Howard and Cameron Torrey have spent the summer preparing and organizing the annual Week of Welcome to help incoming first-year and transfer students become acquainted with their new home.

#GDTBATH: Josh Howard and Cameron Torrey.

Rising senior Cameron Torrey knows just how hard it can be to transition from high school to college life.

“I didn’t really make a lot of new friends my first year, and I felt really lost for a while,” Torrey said of her first year at UNC-Chapel Hill.

It wasn’t until she found her niche on campus months into her time in Chapel Hill that she began making new friends and making Carolina home.

To help UNC-Chapel Hill’s newest students acclimate to campus life and bypass some of the hurdles Torrey personally faced, Torrey and fellow Tar Heel Josh Howard have spent the summer preparing and organizing the annual Week of Welcome.

The two-week celebration, which kicks off Aug. 3 and runs through Aug. 16, is designed to help first-year and transfer students become acquainted with their new home and learn more about new opportunities. Week of Welcome currently has more than 100 academic and community-building events planned for the start of the fall semester.

“It’s really tough to make that transition from high school to college in general — especially with such a big campus at UNC,” said Torrey, who is majoring in exercise and sport science. “It’s really important to me that people feel a sense of comfort in the community when they come to campus. That’s what I want to provide for people because I know how difficult it was for me. I want to help people get situated.”

Both Torrey and Howard have been involved in the annual event in the past as members on the planning team and now serve as co-chairs of the Tar Heel Beginnings Board. In their roles, they work alongside the staff at New Student and Family Programs to organize and schedule programming with student organizations and campus departments.

The goal of the Week of Welcome, Howard said, is not just to help students feel comfortable on campus but also to prepare them to succeed in the classroom by introducing them to all the resources as their disposal.

“Week of Welcome is all about giving students these tools and connections that they need to thrive at Carolina,” he said.

That task took a challenging turn in the spring when Carolina transitioned all spring and summer courses online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though students are expected back on campus beginning next week, Torrey and Howard needed to redefine what Week of Welcome would look like in 2020.

Not only will more students be beginning the semester remotely, new community standards and guidelines will also impact how events can be held on campus. With safety being a top priority, the planning focus for Torrey and Howard pivoted to helping organizations find ways to offered activities virtually.

“Given the circumstances, this Week of Welcome is a challenge unlike any other. But it also means that this Week of Welcome is more important than any before,” Howard said. “We have new groups of students — students that are learning remotely and students who are doing HyFlex — that we need to find ways to cater to and make them feel like they are involved and part of the Carolina community in a safe way. This whole summer has been about how we can make Carolina accessible to everyone.”

Torrey and Howard didn’t want the virtual events to simply be a series of Zoom meetings, but rather fun and engaging activities. That effort required a lot of trial and error, Howard said, and ultimately resulted in more than 100 events that include virtual meet and greets, scavenger hunts, trivia nights and dance parties.

Unlike past years, where events were held just once, this year’s Week of Welcome will offer a majority of the events multiple times to allow more students to participate.

“Now more than ever, we need fun. Students need to be reminded that you can still have fun,” Torrey said. “It’s important to create a sense of enjoying ourselves.”

This year’s Week of Welcome was created to bring the energy of campus life to Tar Heels wherever they are this fall and help them begin their college experience on the best foot possible.

“No matter where you are, you’re still part of UNC,” Torrey said.

Learn more about Week of Welcome events on Heel Life