posted 2012-05-12 23:00:19

Extending the Freshman Block

Critical academic support should last more than a semester!

Lara Berlyne

Staff Writer

As my first year at Hunter draws to a close, I feel bittersweet about my experience here. For someone who resists change with every inch of her being, I found the Freshman Block Program to be a pleasant transition state from high school to college level courses. My only qualm with the program would is that it only lasted one semester, leaving its participants isolated from their newfound friends and support system. If I could change one thing about Hunter College, it would be extending the Freshman Block Program for the full freshman year, as opposed to just the Fall semester.

I had no idea what to expect from my first year at Hunter! I chose a Freshman Block Program because the courses appealed to my interests, and the school promoted it highly. I had immersed myself within a group of people simultaneously very similar to me and very different in interesting ways! I couldn’t believe the amount of out-of-state students I encoun- tered, as I had always assumed that stu- dents of Hunter were New York residents. I found that the people I met were almost as starved for companionship at Hunter College as I was, and we quickly developed bonds. Because we had an identical sched- ule, it was easy to schedule study sessions and group hangouts. I felt especially popu- lar and important when I walked into my Cultural Anthropology lecture and found a seat reserved for me by my blockmates.

As the Fall 2011 Semester came to an end and registration began for Spring 2012, the endless course catalog tempted each member of my tight-knit group of friends with classes that delighted their interests. Knowing that we’d inevitably be fragment- ed across the different times and courses offered, our schedules now reflected us as individuals as opposed to a group. We all went our separate ways, and vowed to stay in contact with one another, rigorously posting our spring semester schedules on Facebook. From the start of the Spring 2012 semester, Hunter felt like a different campus entirely.

While the Freshman Block Program was designed to help you make friends, it can also make you lonelier and more isolated during that following semester than those who had never been assigned to a Freshman Block. It was harder to coordinate our schedules than we had initially thought. I find it a miracle that our schedules aligned just enough to give ourselves an hour to catch up with one another on Wednesdays, and that time is always cherished because of its rarity. It felt like I had been jilted from my false sense of security in the Hunter campus, and had to start all over with new friendships and bonds with others that I would only see in certain classes. Making lasting friendships in a commuter school that has limited non-academic social opportunities is a difficult feat to accomplish.

Because there are enough General Education Requirements to carry students through two years at Hunter, there is no reason why one would have to take the core classes alone, especially after experiencing the comforts of the collective group! While I know that students of Hunter College can- not be coddled in such a program forever, and that the withdrawal from the Fresh- man Block Program could even be worse after being enrolled in it for a full Academic Year, it is a great foundation for getting ac- quainted with the school and shouldn’t be taken away from participants so abruptly.

While college is about finding yourself and gaining a sense of independence, if a program that allows you to get acquainted with your campus is already in action, it shouldn’t act as a tease for one semester, only to be abruptly stripped away from us the next. Even if it is adapted to allow the students more freedom in choosing classes, some of the General Education Requirements should be covered under this program. A more sensitive plan of action would be to help students transition off the Block program by taking two classes off the block. We should wean students off of the support system they have grown to love, rather than forcing them to quit cold turkey!