The start of an O-Week for every type of first-year

That time of the year is here: Orientation Week! I can’t believe it was only a year ago that I was
such a mixture of nerves and excitement at this exact time. I recall everyone being so welcoming
the first day, and all the student volunteers and icebreakers were there with signs right outside
my residence to help guide me to get my keys, find my room and even carry all my things up.
You could tell a lot of hard work was put into the week, but sadly the days following were not
what I had expected.

Because of that, I honestly went into writing this article with the mindset that our O-Week needs
some serious changes. But after speaking to members of our Students’ Union, I was pleasantly
surprised to see that these changes are already on their way.

The Director of Orientation Programming and Events, Tyler Van Herzele explained, “The main
point of our O-Week is to truly show what Laurier has to offer.”

Herzele said that in his four years of being a part of Laurier’s O-Weeks, this point has been made
in great success. And I agree completely. Our O-Week gives students a full tour of the campus,
an info fair of all the great opportunities available, and a look into the life of our school’s work to
raise money for treatment of cystic fibrosis. This point was definitely made, but there was one
thing missing for me last year: comfort.

When I say comfort I mean washing away all the anxiety, nerves and “what ifs” creeping in the
back of the minds of first-years. No matter how nice and approachable all the volunteers are, it is
what is expected of the first-years that is nerve wracking. And from my experience we were
expected to cheer, sing, chant and jump around at just about every event – of which we were
almost forced into going to. For all the outgoing, confident first-years this was a ball. But what
about the shy, not so outgoing students?

This is where I had planned on stating what our O-Week needs to focus on, but instead I will tell
you what changes that are already implemented. Herzele explained this year’s O-Week is trying
out a new type of passive programming. Our O-Week will be running into the first days of
classes, which gives students more of a “drop-in” type of schedule for events (instead of having
icebreakers bang and scream at your residence door until you come out).

While speaking with Darcee Carnes, the Vice President of Programming and Services of
Brantford’s Students’ Union through email, she literally took the words right out of my head.
“Though the excitement and enthusiasm is wonderful we are trying to make sure that all students
are comfortable and feeling welcome,” said Carnes.

Carnes explained this year our O-Week will offer students more low-key opportunities such as
quiet spaces to relax and games that involve talking cards to help start conversation with dons,
off campus administrators and icebreakers.

Though this year still follows the same cheer-off structure I hated last year, I believe the students
will feel less pressured and more comfortable with the new structural changes. And hey, maybe
the cheer-off will be more fun now that it is less forced and not the only focus. This year also
offers more events that will be useful in the first-year’s university future, such as cooking 101
and how to use the library. I believe our Students’ Union has begun a great start into creating an
O-Week for every type of student. We can only go up from here!

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