First Year Connect

First Year Connect is a pre-orientation program for all new students at Amherst College to get to know some of your peers at college and maybe even develop a friendship before the semester starts. Participants will meet face-to-face 2hrs weekly, over 4 weeks, on a custom online video conferencing platform called the Exchange Portal. The timing of your session will be based on your individual availability that you indicate during registration. You will meet people in your group who may have different backgrounds, life experiences or opinions from you. Through this program you will have a chance to learn communication and conflict resolution skills and to hear one another’s perspectives about a variety of topics through dialogue.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the goals of First Year Connect (1YC)? Why are we doing this?

  • 1YC will give you the opportunity to start connecting and building friendships with other first year students at Amherst College before arriving on campus. 
  • We want you to have a thoughtful, positive start to the college experience, one that fosters a community based on the values and mission of Amherst College.
  • 1YC will begin to equip you with essential 21 st century skills and attitudes, including cross cultural communication and collaboration skills, empathy, critical thinking, critical awareness, community building, activation, and civic engagement

When does 1YC happen?

  • The program will begin the week of July 20, 2020 and end the week of August 14, 2020.

Where and when will we meet? 

  • Meet face-to-face in an online space 2hrs weekly, over 4 weeks, on a custom virtual video conferencing platform called the Exchange Portal. The timing of your session will be based on your individual availability that you indicate during registration. 
  • After the 4 weeks meeting virtually, you will meet on campus in-person during orientation. 

How do I sign up and how do I join the sessions? 

  • You will be sent a link via email to register. When you register, you will create an account for First Year Connect that will allow you to join your group on the Exchange Portal. The entire program is web-based and doesn’t require any additional software. Please use your Amherst College email address to register.

What are the technical requirements? 

  • The following technical requirements are optimal for the experience, if you do not have access to them you can let us know during the registration process. We will work with you to ensure your participation in the program.  If there is no built-in webcam, you will need a webcam that does not have a built-in microphone.  Wired headphones, no bluetooth headphones please.
    • The Exchange Portal platform is optimized for Chrome and Firefox. It is mandatory to use the latest version of Mozilla Firefox or Chrome to avoid any technical problems. 
    • To fully participate you will need a desktop, laptop or tablet. 
    • Smartphones are not compatible with the software and it’s not possible to see the other participants. 
    • Stable Wi-Fi connection or wired internet is an important part of the experience. 
    • Additional Hardware: 
      • If there is no built-in webcam, you will need a webcam that does not have a built-in microphone.
      • Wired headphones, no bluetooth headphones please.

Who will be teaching?

  • There will be no teaching in the traditional sense. First Year Connect is implemented through a partnership with Soliya - an international organization that specializes in dialogue. First Year Connect is led by trained facilitators that ensure your voices are being heard and your interests are driving the conversation. Some of the facilitators will be members of the Amherst College community.

What are facilitators?

  • Virtual Exchange facilitators are trained to act as third parties who help a group have a constructive, respectful, and authentic dialogue on various topics of (mutual) interest.
  • Facilitators are multi-partial and neutral process leaders: they do not participate in the content of the conversation but do their best to ensure all participants feel free to express themselves and are heard by others, respecting certain agreed-upon ground rules and following the indications of programme curriculum as well as the group’s needs and interests.
  • Facilitators seek to elicit self-group awareness and understanding by providing a safe and effective learning environment where participants learn tools to hold an effective cross-cultural dialogue and are inspired to take the skills and understanding beyond their participation in Virtual Exchange. Facilitators are trained in utilizing a diverse set of facilitation tools to foster such awareness and learning and address group dynamics. Virtual Exchange facilitators are curious learners, good listeners, multi-taskers and team workers. 

What is virtual exchange?

  • Virtual exchange is a way for people in different locations to interact and communicate through an online platform. 

What is dialogue? 

  • Dialogue is a conversation between two or more people where each person listens to the different side(s) in order to find understanding. Dialogue causes introspection on one’s own position, and where they come from. Dialogue creates an open-minded attitude, but in order to have a successful dialogue participants need to speak openly and honestly and ask questions. 

What will we talk about?

  • Sessions are semi-structured, following a tried and tested curriculum, which gives the space to you, as a student-participant, to decide the specific discussion topics you would like to explore each week. 

Will there be exams?

  • There will not be any exams. 

Will there be assignments between each session? 

  • Yes, there will be weekly “challenges” that will take 30 minutes to an hour to complete.

How long is each session?

  • Two hours.

How frequently does each group meet? 

  • Once per week for four weeks. 

Do I need to be present for the entire session?

  • Yes, in order to receive credit and get the most out of the program you will need to be present for each session for the entire two hours. 

If I have a conflict, can I attend a different session? 

  • We understand that conflicts do arise, please make every effort to attend the session. Unfortunately, we are not able to accommodate schedule changes once the program begins. 

How many students will be in each session?

  • 8-15 students. 

Orientation FAQs

Orientation at Amherst is an exciting time for everyone—incoming students, their parents and family, and the faculty and staff who wish to welcome you to the Amherst College community. Each class is different, but we’ve found that students and families have many of the same expectations, concerns, and questions each year. To help, we’ve created these series of FAQs to get your started.

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Student FAQs

Here you can find information on orientation, moving in, life at Amherst and making the most of campus resources, including information from the International Students Association.

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Parents and Families FAQ

Here are some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions by parents and family members of students who are new to the Amherst College community.