Glimpse this year’s Golden Bear Orientation — no longer 100% virtual

It’s a daunting experience, being a new student on campus, and some 10,000 new first-years and transfers are arriving at UC Berkeley this month, many having never seen the campus. What’s more, this is the first time most of them will be attending classes in person since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted remote instruction.

As usual, Berkeley’s annual Golden Bear Orientation (GBO) — a year in the making — is ready to help. Like last year, the five-day, morning-to-night program to introduce incoming undergraduate students to Berkeley— it began Thursday, Aug. 19, and wraps up today — offers a packed schedule of online events, such as training sessions, ice breakers, tours and academic planning. But unlike last year’s GBO, which was completely virtual, this year’s program is a hybrid one, also providing some in-person, small group activities, including 20 evening events.

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Paint the Night, for example, held last Friday, was an in-person, late night event at which students enjoyed a spectacular light show on Campanile Way and the bell tower, as well as arts and crafts made possible by the ASUC Student Union’s Berkeley Art Studio. They also danced en masse on Lower Sproul Plaza at a silent disco party, wearing headphones that glowed bright colors in the darkness, and some even rode a mechanical bull in an inflatable red, white and blue enclosure.

Other new additions to GBO 2021 included anti-racism conversations; information about the campus’s many affinity, or identity-based, spaces for various student groups; and free child care assistance so that student-parents could more easily attend GBO.

“We know GBO matters for students. It’s never crossed my mind to call it off during the pandemic,” said Micki Antovich, Berkeley’s assistant dean of students and director of New Student Services. “Students may not pick Berkeley because of GBO, but they may stay because of it. Our 400-plus volunteer student guides and our staff make that happen.

“This is Year Five for GBO, and in five years, we’ve become essential for student success.”