shae ashamalla Credit: Shae Ashamalla | Mustang News

As Cal Poly welcomes the majority of students back on campus this fall, new students were able to experience an in-person Week of Welcome (WOW) after a year of virtual learning and activities. 

WOW is a five-day orientation that marks the start of the Cal Poly experience for freshmen and transfer students, consisting of a variety of events, activities, presentations and resources for new students to take advantage of. This year, due to COVID-19, guidelines such as wearing masks indoors and filling out a daily screener were expected to be followed at all times. 

“I don’t think COVID[-19] had a huge impact on WOW and I am so grateful for that,” sociology freshman Sarah Bonano said. “We only had to wear masks which wasn’t a big deal because we are all used to it.” 

New students, or “wowies,” had long days at this year’s WOW. Days started at 8:00 a.m. and sometimes went until midnight depending on what each group had planned.

“I didn’t like how we were up so early and out so late,” political science freshman Libby Margrave said. “It was very tiring. It was non-stop socializing which was exhausting.” 

Although students were socializing during all the group activities and events, they also attended presentations throughout the orientation. On the second day of WOW, first years attended lectures pertaining to drugs, alcohol and sex education. 

The drugs and alcohol presentation included videos of a reenactment of what alcohol poisoning could look like and a video on former Cal Poly student Carson Starkey. Starkey was a freshman at Cal Poly who died from alcohol poisoning during a fraternity hazing when he was 18 years old.

The sex education presentation, titled “The Sex.E Show,” was a skit performed by students. 

“I really liked the Sex.E show because it put a twist on sex education and sexual misconduct,” philosophy freshman Maxine Walas said. “We have all seen boring presentations on these topics, but the skit kept me engaged. I also liked the Carson Starkey video because it was more local and very relevant to the Cal Poly community and was more real.” 

First years also had the opportunity to attend presentations for their respective college and major. 

“I didn’t really like the College of Liberal Arts presentation because I felt that it was a lot of basic information that was already said at SLO days or I could have found it on my own online,” Walas said. “However, I did like the major-based presentation because I was able to meet students in my major and get to know a lot of people because my major is so small.” 

After the presentations, it was time for the WOW groups to bond through a variety of activities.

WOW leaders said they wanted to give their wowies the best introduction to San Luis Obispo and show them all the fun-filled activities around the community. 

“I think the best part about WOW was seeing our wowies have as much fun as we hoped they would while planning our events,” architecture sophomore Kambria Dick said. 

Dick became a WOW leader because she said she liked the leadership aspect and she did not get to experience WOW in its full form due to the pandemic. 

Different groups had different activities planned by their WOW leaders. Some groups went kayaking, bowling, walking around the farmers market, roller skating, attending football games, dancing at the KYLE concert or simply hanging out by the fire on Grover Beach. 

“I had a lot of fun at the Thursday night farmer’s market,” Bonano said. “I also had a lot of fun at the KYLE concert because it was one of the first big events I had gone to since COVID-19.” 

Margrave said that her group went kayaking and were able to see otters which she had never seen before. 

Some students enjoyed the more laidback events. 

“The fun parts for me were the smaller things like hanging out, making s’mores by the beach or just staying up and playing kickball with everyone,” business administration freshman Nick Mitchell said. 

As students walk away from WOW with new friendships and a greater connection to their new home, many said they feel confident to start this school year on the right foot. 

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