Concordia University isn’t holding anything back when they unravel the maroon and gold welcome mat this week. The university promises that this year’s orientation program has something for everyone.
“It was like asking 20 questions and having them all answered,” said 21 year-old Rosalind Williams, who attended several new student orientations already underway.
Williams, two years out of high school in Manitoba and embarking on a career in Psychology, admits to having more than first year butterflies.
“I didn’t know anything about attending a large university,” she said. “When you look at the size of Concordia it’s easy to be overwhelmed. I wondered if I was ready to be here.”
Even after two days of orientation Williams continues to experience what she calls unrelenting butterflies but admits that she now frets over her course load and academic expectations, something she feels is normal for all students.
“It’s a big jump from a small town high school to a large metropolitan university but the orientation seminars seem to take off some of the edge.”
The edge, for many students, is dealing with finding a new apartment, understanding the bus and metro lines, connecting with new people, and scurrying from campus to campus hoping to find classrooms. First year students like Williams quickly become overwhelmed and the difficulty is compounded by sudden loneliness and isolation.
The International Students Office (ISO) tried to help new students dispose of these uneasy feelings during their two orientation sessions Sept. 1-2. The sessions were especially designed for international students who are new to Concordia, as well as Montreal.
“Our orientation focuses on issues specific to settling in Montreal and Concordia,” said the Coordinator of the International Students Office Isabelle-M. Lacelle. “We help with the cultural adaptation of first year international students. Some of the problems that many new students encounter is finding an apartment and trying to communicate in English.”
Miguel Martins, 20, a physics and chemistry exchange student from France, found that his visit to the ISO orientation seminar proved helpful.
“It was helpful and very interesting. Concordia was my first choice to continue my studies and so far I have felt welcomed.”
Last year, the ISO served over four thousand international students, but only a third of them figure attended last year’s orientation. This year, Lacelle expects the numbers to be higher.
“We are usually [international students’] first contacts and we let them know that we are here to represent them.”
Over 900 new international students have attended this year’s orientation so far.
At the Concordia Student Union (CSU), orientation kicks off when the semester begins. Hyped as bigger and better than ever, the CSU is promising that the first two weeks of school will be jam-packed with events, activities, free food and music, as well as an opportunity to meet fellow students.
“The goal of Oreination is to welcome back students and help create and sustain a community atmopshere for all of our new students,” said Steven Rosenshein, VP. of Communications. “Concordia has so many services to offer and we want to make students more aware of what is available.”
This year’s performers include Canadian rock band Finger Eleven, and another group, Constantine.
Some of the events lined up include theme parties, community dining events, indoor and outdoor shows, movie nights and two nights of free concerts and shows on MacKay Street .
Many academic departments will also host their own orientation seminars in the following weeks. Students looking for something different may take interest in the alternative-orientation, titled the new Food for Thought, a joint initiative by the 2110 Centre (formerly the Dragonroot Centre), the People’s Potato, Le Frigo Vert and QPIRG Concordia.
These events will direct new and returning students to drug and alcohol free events that focus on the importance of food, health, education, peer support, advocacy, social justice and cultural issues.
Food for Thought events and projects include: The Living Guide, Living Map, Day on the Mezzanine, short films on social justice themes, and a series of workshops on a variety of topics. Food for Thought activities run on both campuses Sept. 19-29 and are open to all students.
For more information on orientation visit Concordia’s website at www.concordia.ca.