Memories of BaseCamp

Victoria Rice - 13 September 2021

I never thought residence could become as important to me as it has. Once upon a time, I was a nervous first-year student and now, as I start off my third year on campus, I look back fondly on how it all started.

First days on campus

I remember my first day on campus as a resident. Sure, I had been on campus for tours and the open house, but this was different. I felt immediately overwhelmed by all the people waiting in line and just wanted to settle into my room. This was going to be my first time living away from home and I didn’t feel ready. Saying goodbye to my family was the hardest part. I had the privilege of having supportive parents and being away from home felt threatening in a way. My mom assured me that I was ready to take the next steps and enter university life.

Later in the evening, my RAs ran our first community meeting. I felt a sense of relief knowing that I was not the only one with mixed feelings about moving in. My floormates were coming from all over the world—many from Calgary or elsewhere in Alberta, others from the Yukon, Ontario, India, China and Turkey. We all were trying to find our footing in this home away from home.

I remember how nervous I was when moving only three hours from home so I can only imagine how much of an adjustment it had been for my international friends. They may have been experiencing one or more drastic changes in time zones, climate and overall a cultural shift in a foreign country.

I have so much respect for my friends and peers who have taken a risk to come to a new country for school—over the past couple of years you have taught me a lot about your own culture and have helped uniquely shape our University of Alberta student body.

My first BaseCamp

BaseCamp Orientation was a great experience for me. I like having structure in my life, so finding out that there are house rules and community guidelines in residence made me feel safer. Learning the rules and policies in residence gave me peace of mind. For example, having Checkpoint in Lister may be more inconvenient when trying to enter or exit the community, but I feel more secure knowing that my community is being protected during times where unwanted guests might show up.

BaseCamp gave me a casual yet structured environment to get to know people. I was extremely excited to make new friends on campus, yet was terrified of facing rejection from my peers. My RAs were great at facilitating icebreakers and encouraged us to share our thoughts and feelings after the sessions. Our other student leaders were knowledgeable and provided wisdom in navigating day-to-day life in residence.

We had some amazing community bonding during that first week, setting a great tone for the year. My favorite part of BaseCamp was (and still is) the Can I Kiss You? consent yeynote, by Mike Domitrz. Every time I see it, I am impressed with how easy Mike makes consent to understand.

In my first year, BaseCamp flew by. At the end of the week, I was pumped up for the year and felt ready enough to take the plunge into classes. I had made connections with my floormates, found friends in a couple of my classes, somewhat adjusted to eating from the dining hall, and knew my way around campus a little bit better.

My (virtual) second year

Second year posed a bit more of a challenge as we all learned how to navigate the virtual world. I was a part of a virtual community and enjoyed making connections with students living all over the world. Although it was not the same as being in person, virtual BaseCamp allowed residents, as well as students who were planning on moving into residence in the future, to bond over shared experiences and learn from each other.

I was approaching orientation from a different perspective this time, as a Virtual RA. I knew the challenges and excitement of entering first year, but like my residents I, too, was experiencing the struggles of virtual learning for the first time. The year required a lot of patience and support during the pandemic—who hopes they never hear the term “unprecedented times” again? Definitely me.

As a residence community, we were able to make the most out of a trying situation and still connect with one another, even if it was a 20 minute zoom call to check in. This year, seeing some of my virtual residents and being able to say hello in the halls proves to me that every moment was worth it.

The best of both worlds

Heading back into some form of normalcy, BaseCamp this year took the best parts of pre-pandemic BaseCamp and virtual BaseCamp. We were able to gather in our communities and attend fun events in groups, but also had the opportunity to watch larger scale presentations from the comfort of our own rooms and lounges. I know that I am not necessarily comfortable with gathering over a thousand people in the Butterdome just yet, so I am content with sitting in my community, live streaming an event.

Heading into this year, I want to leave first time residents with the following advice: take advantage of every opportunity, every resource, and every challenge. Our campus has so many ways to get involved, in and out of residence.

After a year and a half of online interactions, it may seem daunting to put yourself out there, but remember that the pandemic is a shared experience and our community is healing together. You are not the only one who feels the way you feel. Everyone’s first year on campus is overwhelming, but you got this!

And the residence team is here to support you, all year round.