My name is Dre Hilton. I go by He/Him/His pronouns and I am currently a sophomore here at Olin.

It feels like yesterday I was at 2020’s Candidate Weekend even though it was a millenia ago. I can vividly remember the gut wrenching feeling I had as I walked into my interview with an Admissions counselor. As soon as we started talking, I felt a sense of community so there was no need for nervousness. Olin tends to have this effect on people in and out of the bubble because of the kindness and excitement presented to the candidates. 

How does this community look when remote, compared to being on campus; Is a question I started to think about recently after seeing the admissions counselor in person for the first time since Candidate’s Weekend. They said to me “WOW, you’re a sophomore now! I can’t believe it. How did this happen?”

How did it happen? I was able to reflect on my past year at Olin after this conversation. 

As a first-year, there are certain expectations that you have when diving full force into college. A lot of which don’t exactly align with the current state of the world - living amidst a pandemic. As a rising first-year I had many aspirations for how my year would look pre-COVID. Navigating through campus from a social lens was a completely different experience than I could have ever imagined. If a time-traveler were to come back and say that the bulk of my first-year of college would be spent in my room or socially distanced I would have laughed and walked away. However, this was the harsh reality myself and many other first-years had to face world-wide. 

The bulk of our social interaction was through the computer screen with the exception of our household group (a group of people in your hall that you didn’t have to social distance with). Even with the household groups, the feeling of community I got at candidate's weekend wasn't yet in full force. For the whole year I had an all time low of social interactions.

At the start of the first all-student semester, the amount of social interactions I experienced was immediately flipped. It was almost like night and day when we look at the 2020-21 academic year versus now. One event that lingers in my mind as something that was an amazing introduction to the in-person experience was the "First Year and a Frosty.” This is one of Olin’s yearly traditions where you do friend speed-dating to meet upperclassmen. The Class of 2024 did not have one of these, so a funny thing happened where you would have sophomores on both sides of the table. 

I’ve talked to about 3-4 times as many people as I did in the first two semesters in the first two weeks alone. Even though things aren’t exactly like they were preCOVID, I can feel the sense of community emerging like it once was. As everyone breaks out of their shells, I can sense that familial bond growing stronger.

Going from having no faculty on campus to being able to walk into someone’s office casually to say "Hi" is astonishing to me. Our community is back and it’s back strong. Everyday brings me back to the question the admissions counselor asked me一because it almost feels surreal. One of the reasons I chose Olin was the community and the people within it and this semester is just showing me why that choice was so valid. Being able to play basketball with a group of friends, meeting new people daily at the dining hall, IN-PERSON classes! All of these reasons serve to show why I chose Olin. What we have here is something special. Something that I only slightly remembered in the midst of the pandemic. But this something can’t go away because it’s bond is indestructible as long as Olin has students and faculty!