The first week of September was crazy for me. Not only was it the first week of school, but it was O-Week. O-Week, or Orientation Week, is actually only three days and it marks the start of the new year for incoming students. This year, I got to participate in O-Week as a leader and I would recommend it to anyone.
Participating in O-Week as a leader was definitively one of my favourite experiences this year so far (I know it’s only been a month). There’s something special about O-Week I think. It’s a crazy few days, packed with activities, and you make friends very quickly so you can have someone to share the excitement with. It was kind of cool to see friend groups forming and being able to watch first years settle into their new home.
I hope some of you will be inspired to volunteer for your school’s O-Week next year, so I’m going to give you a little break down of what each day looked like for me.
THURSDAY AND FRIDAY
Before any of the students arrived, I was already getting into the O-Week spirit. For two days before the week started (it’s really only three days of constant activities, than classes start-up and the two run side-by-side), all the leaders participated in training. During training we went over things like how to use language to be more inclusive, the importance of consent, and other topics that might be relevant to helping the first years settle in.
These first two days were both really fun, and really long. From 8:30AM until around 5PM both days I spent most of my time sitting down in what felt like a freezer getting pumped for the next few days. Each house (or residence) gets roughly five leaders, so you get paired with four people you may or may not know. I didn’t know any of my other leaders, and I was so worried it’d be awkward, but boy was I wrong.
O-Week does this thing, like I said before, where you get really close with people really quickly. I thought it was only a first year thing, turns out it’s an every year thing. By the end of the five days, my leader team was tight.
SATURDAY (8AM – 11:00PM)
Saturday was move-in day. All the students are bringing their things in out of cars, getting their room key and student ID’s, as well as their orientation packs, so there was a lot to do in just a few hours.
Being a leader means we have to get there before they do. I was at school and ready to bring the hype for 8AM. Once the students started rolling in, it was four hours of running up and down stairs, unloading cars, and generally helping first years and parents with whatever I was capable of.
Luckily, I was placed in the smaller all-girl residence on campus and had the girl’s basketball team to help me out, so there really weren’t many girls to move-in. I think I carted around about nine different mini-fridges though (did you know how heavy those little guys are???).
After move-in the day was pretty relaxed. There were some low-key activities for the first years to participate in, so my job was mostly walking around with my leader shirt and bright pink hat on so I would be easily identifiable if any first years had any questions. During training, leaders made flags for each house and so we carried that around to make us even easier to spot in the crowd.
A lot of Saturday involved shouting and teaching the first years the school and house cheers. I’m surprised I didn’t lose my voice with how much cheering I did throughout the whole week. The general rule was, if you’re wearing your leader shirt and you’re waiting for an event to start or want to keep the hype up, you start cheering your little heart out and hope you get the crowd going.
That evening we had opening ceremonies and a concert, as well as a few more low-key activities. As a leader, we were encouraged to attend the outdoor concert so we could help with crowd control. Our school makes O-Week a dry event, but a lot of first years still get drunk and/or bring alcohol to the events so our job was to keep the intoxication to a minimum and help anyone who was drunk. This basically meant making sure the students got home safely or calling security to escort them out of the event.
Probably my favourite thing about the day was when I got a free selfie stick from one of the businesses promoting themselves at the events. Selfie-sticks are amazing!
SUNDAY (8AM – 9PM)
Sunday kicked off the day of activities. We had our cheer off today, olympics, and a choose your own adventure event!
Coffee was a must to make sure I’d make it through the whole day. I stopped at Tim Hortons to grab my group of leaders (4 other girls) and myself a coffee before getting to the school and waiting for the girls to take them to the first event.
I felt so bad for them! Their meal hall was closed before the event started so most of them didn’t get to eat breakfast, which definitely made a few of them hangry, but they were so sweet about it! I’m so proud of how well they tackled the rest of the morning sans-breakfast.
There were a few activities first to help determine our Shine Spots (more on this to come) and earn house
points, and then we got the cheer off. Each house competed with original house cheers to see how had the most hype (can you tell hype is the theme of the week?). We did cheers to the Narwhal song (our house mascot is a narwhal) and to Me Too by Meghan Trainor. After the first round where we sang Me Too, this amazing thing happened where we went to the finals. I was so certain the girls would forget the words to our cheers or just stand there while we cheered, but they totally brought it and guess what? WE CAME IN SECOND!
Coming in second was amazing! It meant we were currently tied for second overall in the house cup.
Cheer off led right into the olympics which led right into dinner, so it was a full day for our girls (and us!)! I was so proud of how excited they were for the day, despite us leaving them very little time for eating. Luckily, we had over an hour between the olympics and the opening sex talk.
For dinner we decided to have a family meal. We gathered all of the girls in the house outside of the meal hall and then went in as one big group so no one had to eat alone and the girls could get to know each other more. It was so cute and I honestly loved hanging out with all of them so much. These girls quickly became some of my favourite people on campus.
Around dinner time I started to get the worst headache. I’d just spent most of the last two days outside in the sun without drinking enough water while I was yelling and running around, probably not the smartest idea. So my night kind of ended then.
Leaders aren’t allowed to go to the sex talk because it’s normally so popular the lecture room fills up. We bring in two different guest speakers for our sex talk – someone who talks mainly about consent, and someone else who talks about how to have safe (and fun!) sex. It’s actually really well done, but today I was just not excited to have to bring the girls to the event.
After walking them over, I went to another floor of the building where I knew there were couches and napped while the other leaders figured out the game plan for the next day during Shinerama. The minute the sex talk was over I helped explain to the girls how Choose Your Own Adventure was going to work and then went home to sleep. My voice was gone at this point, but it had it’s moments of almost sounding like normal.
MONDAY (8AM – 12PM)
Monday started pretty chill, especially for the leaders. It was a pancake breakfast and society fair of sorts. Basically, there were little half hour seminars for the first years to learn about the different programs on campus that can help them succeed in school. It was an event to remind them that they weren’t alone. The leader role in all of this was to bring them to the event and then just hang out in the building until it was over so we could bring the girls to our shine spot for shine day (remember how I said I’d be coming back to that?).
Shinerama is, according to their website, “Canada’s largest post-secondary fundraiser in support of Cystic Fibrosis Canada. Over 35,000 student volunteers from 50 Canadian universities and colleges across the country come together every year to make a difference in the lives of those battling cystic fibrosis (CF). Student volunteers all over Canada are shining shoes, flipping burgers, washing cars and doing whatever it takes to raise crucial funding to fight cystic fibrosis. This national event puts the “fun” in fundraising!”
What ends up happening is every house gets assigned a location in the city and we travel out to it as a group with collection boxes and have to get as creative as possible for five hours to raise as much money as possible. We cheered, sang, danced, and hugged our way to third place (meaning we raised the 3rd most money out of the group). It was really cool to see afterwards what other groups did to raise money for CF research!
After Shinerama, the day was basically finished. The students had their induction ceremony, and all the leaders went over to one of the frat houses to hang out until the ceremony finished. It was a weird end of the week feeling, people were dancing, throwing a football around, and just chatting while we tried to bring the hype back for the last bit of O-Week. The only thing after the ceremony was the big rugby game, so we had to make sure we were excited to cheer for that!
I know nothing about sports, so sitting through the first half of the rugby game was hard. People were still coming in as the game started and I didn’t know what was going on anyway. The leaders had all learned a flash mob dance at the beginning of the week and so at half-time we all got a text message telling us to be ready. The joy of this flash mob was that not only was it a surprise for all the students, but it was a surprise for us!
I had to leave right after the flash mob happened and missed the last half of the game (such a disappointment, right?) so I could participate in the walk home program! Every night of O-Week we had leaders volunteer to walk off campus students home so no one had to walk home alone in the dark! It was a great idea, but not a lot of students used the program so we ended up mostly all just sitting on the floor exhausted from the previous few days. I did get to walk one girl home though so that was a good excuse to get up and move around!
THE REST OF THE WEEK
Classes started on Tuesday so there were less events throughout the week but I could definitely feel the effects of those three days on my body. I was so drained, my voice was gone, and I felt super dehydrated, but it was all worth it. Being an O-Week leader was amazing and such a great way to get even upper year students excited for the beginning of the school year! If you’ve never volunteered to help lead O-Week I’d recommend it. Sure, it’s exhausting but it’s so worth it. Don’t believe me? Caitlyn also volunteered as an orientation week leader for her university and loved it.