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For commuter students, frosh week has little lasting impact

Stream-based orientation would foster more meaningful connections
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U of T’s virtual orientation left much to be desired. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY
U of T’s virtual orientation left much to be desired. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

Frosh week is seen as an exciting and somewhat necessary rite of passage for first-year students at university. Orientation is supposed to be a time to welcome new students, celebrate our community, and make new friends. But for commuters, frosh can be underwhelming. In my experience, it was overrated.

Commuters don’t have much to gain from frosh

Each college at UTSG, along with our two satellite campuses, hosts its own frosh week and activities. For students staying in campus residences, a week among peers from their college can be a productive experience. They get to experience what their college and their peers are like, which matters since they will live together for the year. Obviously, the same cannot be said about commuter students.

Last year, as a first-year commuter student, I attended frosh at New College. Throughout the week, I participated in activities meant to bring New College students together and create a sense of community. However, once the fall semester started, reality kicked in. I realized I was not really part of the college’s community, as I had no classes there, and likely never will. The tour I took around New College during frosh was of no use to me, an English student who had classes exclusively at Innis College and Victoria College.

Apart from meetings with the registrar, many commuters do not even set foot in their college during the school year. Thus, college-specific events that happen during orientation are not always useful for people who reside off-campus.

Frosh does not group programs together

It would make sense for frosh to be based on admission streams rather than college. If the week were organized by each stream, students would be able to meet peers with similar interests and aspirations, and truly develop a sense of community.

They would be able to attend academic guest lectures that are more specifically geared toward their interests. Connections could turn into friendships or study groups. An orientation  based on streams would allow new students to feel more acquainted with classmates before classes actually start.

Yes, the people I met during frosh were nice enough, but all of us had different academic interests, and I never saw any of them again after that week, as we did not have classes together. Though I did keep in touch with a few people over Instagram, it did not take long for us to drift apart.

All in all, commuter students who miss frosh are not missing out on much. There are many other things they could be doing during the last week of summer, and they will have plenty of better, more meaningful opportunities throughout the next four years to forge friendships and build a sense of community. 

First-year students who take public transit or drive to school usually feel left out from the university experience at first. Most of their time is spent at home, in a moving vehicle, and in class. Orientation week should acknowledge and include commuters. In 2017, students who didn’t live in residence made up almost 90 per cent of the university’s population. An attainable solution would be for the university to organize frosh by admission stream. Hosting stream-specific events for first-year students would stimulate bonding between students, no matter their housing situation.

Agata Mociani is a second-year English student at New College.