By Celina Daigle

In attempts for University of Connecticut students to form a connection with other first-years in a more traditional sense, UConn First Year Programs, UConn Learning Communities and Undergraduate Student Government have come together to create the First Year Pen Pal Initiative. 

“Throughout this semester we have noticed a lack of participation, and just kind of being able to meet new people right now, especially during a pandemic, during isolation, during physical distancing is really difficult,” said Christine Jorquera, fifth-semester psychology and human rights major and USG Director of the Student Development Committee.

As many students are already online for classes, these three organizations decided to take a more traditional route in connecting students to one another. Rather than meeting new people through social media, Zoom or email, any first-year student, both on and off campus, now has the opportunity to sign up for the initiative.

Beginning on August 15, 2020, the First Year Pen Pal Initiative sign up link was posted to the USG Instagram and shared in the learning community newsletters. The Google Form remained open for two weeks and consisted of a series of seven short and easy questions regarding your future goals, one thing you worry about, who a hero in your life is, etc. Each students’ answers were kept confidential and were only viewed by the Student Development Committee in order to match participants together on a relatively compatible level. 

“I’m hoping students will be able to connect soon,” Jorquera said. “I don’t want to monitor or intrude on people’s connections.” 

USG aimed to solidify the matches and send them to each of the 70 or so applicants this past weekend. Once each applicant receives their match, it is in their hands to keep exchanging letters as they please. 

By the end of the semester, it is likely that each pen pal participant will receive a feedback letter from USG to get some intel on students’ experiences with this program. The feedback received will determine if this program is attempted again come the spring 2020 semester.

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