The “Welcome” before Welcome Week

Welcome Week is a classic tale, but what is it like to move in to Bethel University as a student athlete weeks prior to the other students?

Lauren Clyne | Features Reporter

As Welcome Week staff unloaded jam-packed minivans and towed fridges and couches into freshman dorms, President Jay Barnes and his wife introduced themselves to incoming freshmen. Welcome Week was in full swing.

“Bethel University’s newest football players have never been able to experience Welcome Week because they move in during early August,” said Diane Torres, the administrative assistant in the athletics department. “So, this year we put all that to an end.”

Athletes participating in a National Collegiate Athletic Association fall sport pile into the Bethel dorms as early as Aug. 13.

Because of rigorous pre-season training, these students usually don’t have as much time to get to know other students on their floor. In addition, families of players move each student’s belongings into the dorms without the help of Welcome Week staff. Student athletes typically cannot attend more than half of the Welcome Week festivities due to their start-of-the-year meetings and scrimmages.

However, most college athletes and their families know that committing to a sport requires sacrifices and are more than willing to make them. Sophomore soccer player Andrew Zwart made it work. His mother flew down from Massachusetts to move him in early and ended up flying the whole family back a week later for the commissioning service led by the campus ministries team. When asked if he found time to bond with his floor mates, Zwart said, “I think that if you really care about connecting with your floor, you just do it.”

In spite of that, each team at Bethel University welcomes their new players in different ways. Senior football player Ryan Ross still makes an effort to visit Freshman Hill to get to know the rookies. The football team also encourages new players to sing songs in front of the entire Dining Center during their first few weeks on campus.

“In high school football, the rookies were at the bottom of the totem pole. But here at Bethel – especially during the first few weeks – the older players are here to serve the freshmen,” Ross explained. “I believe it brings our team together faster.”

Sophomore Bailey Israelson reminisces on how her volleyball team bonded without being involved in Welcome Week. The team’s inability to participate in the festivities was actually the common ground that bound them together during those first few days at Bethel. 

“During Welcome Week, we all saw people doing weird things like eating cotton candy on the hill or jamming to music on move-in day. Slowly, we realized that it was all a normal part of Bethel University,” she said.

“I would almost say arriving early is more helpful because Welcome Week can teach you a bunch of stuff, but once it’s over you don’t necessarily have a bunch of people to text when you have a question about the POs,” Zwart said.

Ross, Israelson and Zwart all reported developing such strong camaraderie with the other early arrival students in their hall and the nearby buildings that they are still close friends today.

“The people that I started hanging out with before Welcome Week even started [four years ago] are the guys I still live with now,” Ross said.