Student leaders reflect on success of orientation week amidst pandemic

From August 29 to September 7, Mt. A student leaders led incoming students through a series of activities throughout pre-orientation, international orientation, and orientation week. “Despite COVID-19 and the challenges that come with planning around guidelines, we had more students than we normally have register for pre-o,” said fifth year Meighen Centre Orientation chair Rosalie Halls.

Pushkaraj Jadhav, the International Orientation Chair, said that he received a lot of positive feedback from incoming international students about orientation. “I would consider that a mark of success for our team,” he said.

“I am thrilled with how this year’s orientation turned out,” said Will Lint, a fourth year political science student. Part of this success, Lint believes, is due to outstanding leadership. “Having a great leader allowed all of O-Crew and O-Comm to be in good spirits and translate our energy into promoting and executing events,” he said.

Danielle Dickson, a fourth year psychology student and this year’s Orientation Chair, is also “very happy with how the week rolled out,” despite the “uncertainty and constantly changing rules.” It seems as though everyone maintained a positive and helpful attitude when navigating these new rules, as Dickson states that she “was very fortunate to be supported by an amazing team of Mt. A staff, faculty, and especially student volunteers who were flexible, enthusiastic, and so welcoming.”

COVID-19 presented some challenges to orientation week, making it look drastically different from 2018. Her biggest challenge was having to “plan around this uncertainty and plan alternative schedules” including all online, hybrid, and in-person options.

Jadhav found that “the uncertainty for the acceptance of student visa applications due to COVID” was a major factor, as some students did not get their visas approved until mid-August. Those planning International Orientation also had to consider the diversity in vaccination status of those coming to Mt. A, and therefore had both self-isolation and in-person programming.

Jadyn Boyles, a fourth year biology student and O-Crew member, thought that everyone did a good job of following the school’s regulations, and that COVID-19 had less of a negative impact than it did last year. Fourth year biology student and O-Crew member Lisa Coleman also considers COVID-19 to be less of a barrier given the year and a half of practice Mt. A now has had to adapt to changing restrictions.

While first year students receive a lot of advice during orientation week, upper year students provided some additional guidance. Hall’s advice for incoming students is to take care of your mental health and get as involved as you can. “As important as school is,” she said, “it’s also important to enjoy your time outside of the classroom.” In a similar vein, Dickson said that first year is “your time to get involved, try new things, and put yourself out there.” Lint says he wished that he “had enjoyed the journey instead of worrying about the destination.”

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