Hello fresh, er Frosh student lifers, out there in the ether. As your first important bit of orientation info about life at U of T, you should know, never use Wikipedia as a source in any of your assignments. So, this is how *not* to start an article on orientation week:
“The University of Toronto has a number of different “Frosh Weeks” organized concurrently by different student groups within the university; including the societies of the different colleges, professional faculties (including perhaps the most well known organized by the University of Toronto Engineering Society, Skule (engineering society), in which ‘F!ROSH’ and ‘F!ROSH Leedurs’ dye their bodies purple) and the University of Toronto Students’ Union.”
That said, your second orientation to life at U of T: if it has Wiki cred, it’s the real deal.
Your third orientation: why read it if you can see it?
Okay, so at this point, you’ve probably received your college’s information about Orientation Week (also known as Frosh Week here), and you’re either:
(a) already signed up and
(ii) kind of nervous
(b) not yet signed up, but
(i) kind of thinking about it
(ii) totally, irreconcilably unable to attend
Many moons ago, I was firmly in group (a), somewhere between subsections (i) and (ii). I was moving into res, so I had a whole slew of other things I was nervous about for the week. But I’d argue that for off-campus folk, frosh is less immediate yet more important. Though it’s certainly not your last chance to get involved on campus, it’s an excellent and welcoming start.
As a certified newbie to Toronto (i.e. an on-campus baby), I consulted with my friend, Arman Hamidian. Why, you ask? Well, of anyone I know, Arman is best-qualified to talk about Frosh Week—one of UC’s orientation co-ordinators this year, Arman has acted as a Frosh leader and/or exec for the past several years. But before it all, he was a kid from North York in category (a), subsection (ii), off-campus variety.
Arman sees two main benefits to orientation. “It’s a means to create a community based on what community history at your college has been,” he says. At UC, for example, that community is super open and diverse. Like, super open. In this vein, Arman recommends that frosh “keep in mind that you’re going to meet individuals here from all different backgrounds, so be as open-minded as possible.”
This serves as a great introduction to U of T, which is a very diverse place. To this advice, I add, throw “cool points” out the window. In high school I would not have been caught dead cheering, and unless I was acting in an assembly, I probably would have skipped it (why go to an assembly when you can study?! Hello). Although this is a paradigm that works in high school where everyone is awkward, adolescent and aware of who everyone else is, it doesn’t fly at a school of 40,000 where everyone is new to the school and each other.
My experience during Frosh was that you got out what you put in—your leaders will answer the questions you ask and you’ll discover the campus through the activities you go to. Most importantly, you’ll have fun if you let yourself get into what you’re doing. As in, don’t be too cool to scream your head off cheering on Bloor Street because when else are you going to get the chance amidst a sea of your new friends? Not only is this bonding, but it also makes campus and downtown Toronto a bit more like home. Suddenly, Gucci becomes that store you cheered “Rah rah Scarlet and Gold” in front of, and these strange faces become the people you danced around campus with.
Second, Arman says, Frosh “orients students to what U of T life is really like,” introducing them to the campus itself, campus groups, academic life and college (social) life through a variety of activities such as mock lectures, tours of campus and clubs day. This was definitely true in my case, although I will say that I felt a bit too overwhelmed with the community creation to really take a lot of the orientation in.
That said, there are two bits of advice I’d like to tack on to this: (1) don’t be afraid to break with the group and do something more low-key if you’re feeling overwhelmed, like walking around the campus with a few friends or exploring the city at your own pace. Certainly, do not suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out, a constant affliction of mine), because maybe what you needed right then was a different kind of activity; (2) I wish I’d known in my first year about the awesome alternative activities to what your college or faculty puts on, which are generally more chilled.
This has particular relevance for you (b), subsection (i) and (ii) folks. Does your hesitance have to do with cost, maybe? UTSU’s Frosh events are free to all U of T students and don’t require a commitment of a whole week for you working folk. Although having gone to them many times, I can say that you would probably feel more comfortable at them if you had a friend there.
But where to meet this friend? * Segue wa-ay…* (I.e. the blog equivalent of reeemix.)
My colleagues in the Office of Student Life have been working hard putting together Kickstart. Kickstart is an alternative Frosh Week, free and open to all incoming first-years. The activities range from walking tours to mock lectures, along with social events where you can meet fellow first-years. You can pick and choose Kickstart events or do the whole thing, or swap a few of your college’s events for Kickstart ones.
Ultimately, whatever category you fall into, if you’re in town I’d recommend checking out at least one event. It’s low-risk, low-effort, high potential gain, and as you’ll learn in any social science course at U of T, according to game theory, that’s the best route to take.