Starting the first year of college is a rite of passage many high school graduates fulfill every August. For many students, the move into the dorm is their first taste of adulthood. As first-year students flock to campus, Tech Green, the CULC, and Bobby Dodd Stadium buzz with the energy of thousands of brand new Yellow Jackets both excited and anxious to begin their journey through higher education. However, last fall, many dorm rooms sat empty, the line at Blue Donkey was rarely long, and Price Gilbert became home to a COVID testing site rather than a hub for campus life. This fall, as the Georgia Tech community, and the nation as a whole, begin a slow return to what life once was, our second-year Jackets face a unique paradigm. Through the project "COVID FRESHMAN" and (Re)Connecting to Campus, we will document their stories and the distinct challenges Georgia Tech second year's are facing.
In this oral history series, the Empathy Bytes team will document the experiences of second year Georgia Tech students that experienced their first year at a distance. Many students had not experienced an in-person college course and some even had not visited campus prior to their second year in Fall 2021. Our team will explore the effect this unconventional first year has had on these second year students, specifically focusing on their experiences connecting to campus. We are also hoping this series can become a resource for those displaced second year students, so we are interviewing upperclassmen students that work to maintain traditions and engagement on campus. We will hear their experiences of being sent home from campus in Spring of 2020 and their perspectives on boosting the connection second years feel to campus and acclimating to campus life.
The project goals are to record the current class of second year's early collegiate experiences, record the experience and perspectives of influential upperclassmen, and create resources using the captured interviews that promote empathy and understanding for current and incoming students.
The project will also support a related project called Hidden Spaces which will elevate the oral history series to new possibilities and mediums. A photography series will be paired with the interviews in an immersive tour, research about traditions and history will be amplified with audio, and future work in the AR/VR domain will be explored. Read more about the Hidden Spaces sub-project here.