Through the Eyes of New Students
By Isaiah Hazelwood, Trinity News Senior Editor
As the University of Toronto plans to return to in-person classes, Trinity college has reopened to invite students into the residence. For third and fourth years it was a delayed return under unexpected circumstances, but for first years and some second years, it was a truly unique first time on campus.
Despite the heavy safety restrictions surrounding move-ins, they finished with little problems for both first years arriving on September 5th and upper years arriving on September 6th. Ahmed Khalf, a first-year living in Trinity proper, said that getting his key and moving in his bags was “quite smooth and really quick.” Bryce McDowell, a second-year living in St. Hilda’s, agreed that the process was “straightforward,” in particular because other students at St. Hilda’s volunteered to help carry luggage in.
Following move-ins was a week full of orientation planning, with over forty events held in-person and around twenty more events online. Maryam Rehman, the orientation coordinator, said that the events had a great start as people grabbed orientation kits, and only improved as students were excited to be back in person and eager to meet one another. “It felt like any other orientation,” Maryam said while Saarthak Singh, another orientation leader, said he was “surprised about how amazing it’s going.”
Students also appreciated the orientation events, with Ahmed Khalf complementing the icebreakers for pushing him to meet students with similar interests while Kenji Tan, a first international year student, appreciated the in-person format, high effort from student orientation leaders behind each event, and the multitude of events keeping him occupied before classes began.
However, orientation week wasn’t without flaws. Saarthak Singh acknowledged that online events were “underwhelming” from a lack of attendance and that most events were planned around the number of first years, leaving second years new to campus relatively excluded. Bryce McDowell echoed this latter sentiment, commenting that second-year orientation events felt “non-existent” and “unorganized”.
Outside orientation events, new students have complemented the openness and friendliness of other students on campus. Saarthak Singh felt the community last winter was limited by “groupism, within upper years and within floors,” but there was almost nothing but praise for the new community over these past few days: Ahmed Khalf complemented the “great lively environment” and the smaller closer-knit community; Kenji Tan was “really surprised with how open and friendly people are” and found it easy to get along with others; Bryce McDowell described the community as “very liberating and very welcoming”; and Saarthak Singh loves being able to sit with new people at Strachan hall and strike up a conversation while eating.
While the orientation events are most available to students living in residence, the orientation leaders took steps this year to make them accessible to everyone, including commuter students and international students in quarantine. Alex McLean, a head of the college, described how the heads of college communicated to all new students before orientation online through social media. “I hope to connect to first-year students on a one-on-one basis”, she explained, “and give them resources answering their questions.” Through social media takeover events and themed online drop-in sessions to meet heads, she and the other heads collected first years’ feedback and communicated their concerns to orientation leaders and the administration.
In addition, the schedule of orientation events was created with commuter students in mind. Events were designed to be applicable to all students regardless of living place, while residence-focused tours of the college were held by community advisors and dons specifically for the new students on their floor. Late-night events, such as movie nights, were moved earlier to be more accessible to commuter students, and online events were available for students unable to come to the residence.
While orientation week has ended, the heads are still planning events to introduce students to the Trinity community. Alex McLean emphasized programs such as MetropoliTrin, which encourages students to “escape the Trin Bubble” and explore the city, and Trinity Community Connections, a continuation of the Summer Community Connections program which helped new students enter the Trinity College community. Alongside these, she explained the heads of college are hoping to continue in-person community-building activities into the year – with details planning to be released soon.