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 its also fun
its 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,
hes 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. Its a lot of information early
on, and its 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
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.)
Thats the kind of frustration she and her colleagues are working
Eliot Buchan is newly arrived from Australia, and is taking the Graduate
Diploma in Journalism.