Big Red Welcome kicked off on Aug. 16 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, providing this year’s freshmen with a traditional and unforgettable start to their college journey. Although Big Red Welcome took place last year, when the current sophomore class arrived on campus, the experience was far from normal and much less exciting. 

This time last year, I, along with the rest of the class of 2024, was starting my college journey. During a normal year, upon arrival, we would be met with signature Big Red Welcome events that would give us a taste of what college is supposed to be like and help us get connected with one another. However, things weren’t normal and neither was the start to our college experience. 

While nobody can be blamed for the changes that had to be made to Big Red Welcome last fall, I can attest to the fact that it had a big impact on many sophomores. Personally, I came to college full of hope that I’d meet new people and make new friends while attending festivities put on by UNL. However, with the loss of many signature events such as the tunnel walk and street fair and the switch to mostly virtual activities, it made it hard to connect with others and create fun memories. 

While Big Red Welcome is about putting on fun activities for students and helping them make connections, it’s also about getting students excited for their college experience. The events put on during the first few weeks after move-in greatly influence how new students perceive the university and college overall. It’s their first impression of the place they plan on calling home for the next four years.

The lack of community really affected my perception of college during those first few weeks. With fewer opportunities and events going on, it felt like I was missing out on a full college experience. It was also much more difficult to go out, make new friends and connect with peers in my classes as well as professors and other faculty members. Overall, it just felt a bit lonely, and I know I wasn’t alone in that experience. Many of my fellow sophomores this year felt the same way.

Freshman psychology major Lexie Thompson and freshman construction management major Jaxon Preble, on the other hand, say that Big Red Welcome has played a huge part in their college experience already. Not only did it provide them with fun activities to attend and memories that will last a lifetime, but it helped them to find their people on campus and made them feel like this was their home. 

“Big Red Welcome has definitely helped a lot because I’m from nowhere compared to here, so I thought meeting people was going to be a little scary, but no,” Preble said. “Big Red Welcome has helped so much.”

Thompson said Big Red Welcome forced her to meet new people, something she’s thankful for. 

“I’ve made a lot of friends,” she said. “I think that’s really important because moving from home to here by yourself or with a friend, that’s scary, and Big Red Welcome really sets the bar for college and I really, really like that.”

Despite the frustrations of not getting a traditional Big Red Welcome experience, I’m very happy that the new freshmen have had a much more normal and exciting start to their college journey. For Thompson and Preble, these first couple of weeks have been a great introduction to college and the amazing community of people at UNL.

“People will come up to you and talk to you, and it’s a different experience than I would normally have,” Thompson said. “I think it’s really cool and it just kind of introduced college to me I think.”

It seems like this year’s Big Red Welcome achieved its goal of getting students excited about college while helping them make connections with others.

“It’s everything you hear about in the movies,” Preble said about his college experience thus far. “Big Red Welcome obviously helped so much because it forces you to interact with people. I like that a lot.”