Beginning university is a time of change for first year students. September brings a new school environment, new friends, and in most cases, all of this takes place in a brand new city.

New students to Laurier Brantford can expect the majority of the next four (or five, for you con-ed students) years in Brantford and most incoming students are probably asking themselves, “What is Brantford like?”

The best way to understand any city is by looking at its history so here’s a quick crash course in all things Brantford.

The city gets its name from Joseph Brant, who led the Six Nations during the American Revolution and immigrated to the area now known as Brantford from New York upon siding with the British.

During the first half of the 20th century, Brantford was a major industrial centrem behind just Montreal and Toronto in exports, producing large amounts of farm machinery, which supported a strong economy.

Unfortunately in the 1980s and ‘90s, the big manufacturers left town, and the economy collapsed. Brantford was left as one of the most economically depressed areas in Canada. The city’s economy has been improving since then but unemployment is still high.

With a population of just 90,000, Brantford is a small city but that doesn’t stop it from having some great attractions. Affectionately known by some as The Telephone City, Brantford was home to Alexander Graham Bell, who made the first phone call from his office in downtown Brantford.

The city is also the birthplace of “The Great One”, Wayne Gretzky. That may not be news to many hockey fans, but it has had a definite impact on the city. Hockey is very popular in Brantford and the city plays host to the annual Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Tournament and the Wayne Gretzky International Hockey Tournament.

The downtown core also hosts the Sanderson Centre, which hosts a variety of plays, bands and comedians. And for those who like to gamble with their OSAP, the OLG Casino is just a stone’s throw away from campus.

One advantage of having a historic downtown like Brantford’s, is that most of the restaurants and stores are privately owned, offering a great change of pace from the colossal big-box stores that dominate most shopping centres. But if you prefer brand names, then you can head to the bus terminal, also located on campus, and head to the mall.

Some people may have concerns about campus safety especially given Brantford’s reputation. There’s no getting around the fact that there are periodic crimes on campus and that some students have been assaulted, but Laurier Brantford is no more dangerous than any other university campus. There are a few simple ways students can ensure their safety.

The most basic is using common sense. This includes avoiding doing anything that will attract trouble. Also, if you’re out at night travel in a group, if you don’t have a group make sure to call Foot Patrol, a campus walk-home service. The campus has plenty of services to help ensure student safety and if you use them, then you should have a fun and safe first year.