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O-week: how short is too short?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

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Written by Reilly Scott

It feels like just yesterday that a much younger and more intimidated version of myself ran onto the Gryphon football field to perform the humiliating spectacle that the upper year students referred to as the “Prairie Hall Boogie”. Now, six years later, I find myself looking onto the University of Guelph newcomers and I wonder if they’re feeling the same way that I did: anxious, excited, homesick, nervous, curious, interested and above all... FREE!!! Sure, you always come across that ridiculously outgoing first year student who, whether it’s sugar or alcohol induced, manages to make five million friends in about three point two seconds. But there are also the exceptionally shy students and all of the students in-between who, regardless of how many immediate events there are to make them accustomed to the University, take some time to fully adjust. I’m talking about O-week people, that glorious first week of University when first year students have their initial introduction into the University and their new lives, sans parent!

But how can that be fulfilled to it’s complete potential when what used to be eight days of fun-filled froshy play time is shortened to five? In my opinion, Sunday was the perfect day of the week for move-in. It gave students that last weekend to chill with friends, use their own bathrooms and kiss their moms and goldfish goodbye before heading to the G-spot (Guelph that is). The rest of the week could then be spent meeting roommates, other friends and RA’s, touring campus, exploring all on campus food locations and most importantly, getting the initial ‘I’m in University and I need to Party like it’s 1999!’ out of their systems. Don’t get me wrong, I realise that it’s going to take more than a week for students to get partied out (if that ever really does happen) and become entirely comfortable within their surroundings. I just think that such a huge transition away from home requires more than just five days, not to mention all of the time and energy involved in preparing for your first classes in University.

That being said, I was surprised by the great turn out at the Pep Rally last Sunday. Initially, I was concerned because I thought that students would be less inclined to go once they had made a few friends and, quite frankly, realised that they had a choice. However, the stands were full and the boogies were as enthusiastic as ever which I’m sure was a relief to many people, especially the O-week team. Good job guys!

Regardless, five years as an Undergrad at the University and two years on Residence Life Staff has shown me that those first eight days are crucial to a new student. At least I know they were for me. I can’t help but feel like I would have been very overwhelmed with the whole experience had I only been given five days between move-in and the start of classes. It was nice to be able to process what was going on and settle in before I had to apply myself academically. In fact, I found in a lot of cases that eight days didn’t even seem like enough for many of my peers. Lots of first year students, myself included, struggled to find a balance between their social and academic lives. As many of us know, this is something that continues to be difficult throughout the rest of University and at that point we’ve already had several years to figure out our so called ‘systems’ of organization.

All in all, from what I could tell O-week went splendidly. It’s probably true that no matter how much time first year students have in residence before classes begin it will never be quite enough to prepare them for their academic careers. I just can’t help but feel that they should have a week at least to relieve some stress and settle into an environment. Perhaps it would make life a little easier for individuals working and living within the residences as well (all of you R.A.s and Interhall members know who you are)! If students have more time to adjust it could mean fewer conflicts once classes begin and these student leaders become less frequently available. It would also give R.As and Interhall council members more time to build relationships with first year students before their schoolwork got in the way.

In the end, I suppose it is and will always be just a matter of difference and opinion. What is a long transition period for one person may not even begin to fulfill another person’s needs. However, Orientation week is, in my opinion, one of the most actively involved and educational times of the year at the University. It requires a very diverse and enthusiastic group of volunteers to come together with one main commonality, their University of Guelph spirit. So, what do you say? Let’s embrace O-week by making sure that it is, indeed, an entire week long.

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  1. Posted by: George on Sep 4, 2008 @ 10:53am

    I think the best way to prepare students for the rigors and difficulties of university is not to give them more time in the beginning during O-Week to prepare for the first day of class, but to give them a few more days before final exams to get their head together and study. Let’s be realistic, how much time do you really need to prepare for the first day, that is, how many days of partying and doing nothing does one need to prepare for class? If given even just 2 days, students could make it work.

    But, when it’s exam time and you’ve just done a 3-month marathon of courses, assignments, and midterms and then you only have one weekend to prepare for the beginning of finals seems to me to be setting students, particularly first year students, up for failure.

  2. Posted by: kitty on Sep 4, 2008 @ 11:16pm

    i totally agree that o-week should be longer. its definately hard to get settled in when its your first time going to university and even more so for those of us who have never even been to guelph. I myself had to figure out all the bus schedules so that I wouldnt get lost and stranded, all in one day! Thats a feat in itself. Not to metion students coming from other countries. Just today I met a girl who spoke little english and was having a hard time finding her way around downtown and I couldnt even help her.

  3. Posted by: Kristina on Sep 5, 2008 @ 10:10pm

    I agree with George. It's ridiculous how long O-week used to be in comparison to how short prep week for exams would be (if you were lucky to have exams after the first few days passed!).
    This year, I have two exams on the first day, giving me 3 days to prepare.
    How that's logical is beyond me.

  4. Posted by: Brett on Sep 16, 2008 @ 2:21pm

    I agree wholeheartly with Reily. The social aspect of university is quite possibly one of the most impoertiant and I think that a full week can better expel the various stresses and nervousness that would otherwise be lingering.

    While I agree that a longer break before exams would be nice, I sincerly doubt that shortening O-week would give us those days so it's a moot point that doesn't bring us any closer to getting them (I may be wrong however and it would be interesting to hear facts porrving otherwise).

  5. Posted by: Todd on Sep 16, 2008 @ 10:45pm

    I completely agree with Reily, O-Week is not only an important time for the first year students to meet new friends and adjust from mommy's watchful eye to utter freedom, but it's also important for upper year students who can totally use that extra week of work to help pay for tuition. Especially that ever-important holiday pay from Labour Day that you will only receive if you work the next day, which leaves Wednesday to move-in and get everything ready to start classes on Thursday. If the cost of attending this institution is going to be continually on the rise then it doesn't seem right that the Big Whigs on the 5th floor cut back the amount of time we are allowed to make the money to pay their salaries.
    And lets be honest, you know the exam schedule from the first day of classes, giving you about 12 weeks to know when you need to start studying. An extra three days just means three more days of procrastination at some other point in the year.

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