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September 13, 2001 'Getting to Know U' gives Concordia students a start



From left are Charles Hˇlou, Eliot Buchan, Magdalena Pele, Bonita Squires, Karen Ortizo and Donna Pinsky.


Student orientation

Business students enjoy their own orientation games at Concordia

Photos by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

by Eliot Buchan

A new orientation program was launched at Concordia this year to help students find their feet. Getting to Know U Days may have been just what the doctor ordered for some new arrivals.

Marius Chapuis said, “Yes, I feel lost, but it’s also fun — it’s like a game for me!” The 21-year-old from the outskirts of Paris arrived only a week ago. Not only is he settling into a new country, he’s about to start political science classes using a language that he has never studied in before.

Chapuis was one of nine new students being guided around Concordia by peer orientation leader Donna Pinsky on the Friday before classes started. Twenty-nine similar groups of students had met for a day that week as part of the new program.

Students with similar interests were grouped together, based on information gathered from a questionnaire. The accent was on informality, and included tours of both campuses.

Bonita Squires tried to make sense of the multitude of services, clubs and facilities being presented to her in the 13 floors of the SGW campus. “It feels like a maze. Can we get a map? Oh, I guess you get used to it,” she said. Squires, originally from Vancouver, has just been accepted into the linguistics program.

Charles Hélou, a PhD student in computer science, recently jumped ship from the Université de Montréal. He was also trying to get a handle on proceedings. “It’s a lot of information early on, and it’s hard to remember.”

However, despite any information overload, the day appeared to be unfolding to plan. “The idea is to help students feel connected, first in getting to know each other and then in getting to know the university,” explained program coordinator Marlene Gross. Many of the students who drop out in the term are those who feel disconnected from the university life around them.

As the day progressed and conversation became more frequent and relaxed, there were signs of budding friendships. At the end of the final day, Wanita Jones recounted how one student wrote that they had made four friends and submitted phone numbers as evidence.

Student counsellors involved in the project can also testify to its success. Pinsky may have her own way of gauging the success of the program. She told how a hapless new student from a previous year had spent considerable time and energy tracking down the esteemed academic Carl, obviously to no avail. (CARL is the acronym for the Concordia Automated Response Line.) That’s the kind of frustration she and her colleagues are working to prevent.

Eliot Buchan is newly arrived from Australia, and is taking the Graduate Diploma in Journalism.