Games Help New Students Connect

August 25, 2016

First-year student Ayyad Jacob ’20 found a pretty cool ally to help him navigate Grinnell College — Pokémon Go.

“It’s cool to see a lot of the residence halls and buildings as PokéStops. It helps me visualize campus much more,” Jacob says. “I hope it does the same for downtown Grinnell.”

The insanely popular location-based augmented reality game by Niantic, downloaded by millions of smartphone users, urges players to explore the outdoors and capture virtual creatures called Pokémon. It’s also helping college students at Grinnell and elsewhere connect.

“The Lure Module feature can help you find other players on campus. The more people you know the better,” Jacob says. “It can help you identify important landmarks around campus and downtown. It’s a great way to come across new places.”

Jacob is certain to meet fellow Pokémon Go players in Grinnell’s class of 2020, which consists of about 419 students. 

Here are some preliminary statistics about the new first-year class:

  • 24% are U.S. domestic students of color.
  • 15% are first-generation college students.
  • 60% graduated from public high school.
  • 80% participated in community service.
  • 30% participated in student government.
  • 23% were members of literary organizations/wrote for high school publications.
  • 68% participated in fine arts (music, theatre, dance, visual art).
  • 30% were active in debate, speech, or forensics.
  • 40% were varsity athletes.
  • Incoming first-year students represent 35 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Included in the class are 99 international students (24 percent of the entering class), representing 25 countries.

The College’s social media sites highlight PokéStops on campus and remind students to use caution when playing the game — especially around campus construction projects.

Prerana Adhikjari ’20 wanted to play Pokémon Go this summer, but the app was unavailable at her home in Kathmandu, Nepal, so there was no Pikachu-catching for her and no Poké Ball-throwing. Now that she’s on campus and poised to begin the academic year, she is eager to make new friends, meet professors, and play the game with other Grinnellians.

“Pokemon Go is one of the many things that gets me excited about college,” says Adhikjari.

The game isn’t just for students. Jacob is certain some of his professors are playing, too.

“The game is a phenomenon that is touching all generations. Even my dad plays Pokémon Go,” he says.

Jacob spent the summer working as an intern at a social service center in his hometown of Chicago. He also biked around the Chicago Lakefront Trail. He said an old high school teacher gave him a valuable piece of advice about preparing for college. 

“Never be afraid to sit with someone in the dining hall or talk to the guy in the dorm next to you. Everyone feels awkward at first,” Jacob says. “Be the one to break the silence. You never know when you might need one of them to have your back.” 

Or band together and coordinate an attack on the gym at Clark.

Ayyad Jacob ’20 is from Chicago.

Prerana Adhikari ’20 is from Kathmandu, Nepal.