Kicking off the new year

Orientation week in residence is typically the pinnacle of chaotic good energy. It’s a jam-packed week filled with events, sessions, community bonding, and a ton of new friends. Both BaseCamp andEastern Ascent are a great way to kick off the year and get everyone settled in before classes start.

This year was filled with enthusiastic energy as always, despite enormous differences from the past.

Orientation events

It wouldn’t be orientation without some time set aside for some fun and games, and this year was no exception.

With a bit of outside the box thinking, we managed to pull off some pretty cool events all while keeping everyone’s safety a top priority. Virtual events enjoyed by all included a guess the song challenge, trivia nights, a movie night, a Google arts and culture tour and an online board game night. We also got to spend some quality face to face (or mask to mask?) time together at a few in person events over the week, like the water balloon olympics, tie-dye night, the annual campus scavenger hunt and an outdoor paint night.

Sessions

One of the main goals of residence orientation is to get everyone all the information needed to succeed both personally and academically. We had lots of educational and interesting sessions this week that helped us achieve that goal.

With sessions on everything from COVID-19 safety in residence to Dodgeball 101 and everything in between, I think everyone learned a lot this week. There were lots of important tips to be our best selves in sessions like Mental Wellness, Academic Advantage, Money Matters, Adulting 101—and even a peer panel whose members' collective time in Lister added up to over 25 years. That’s a lot of dodgeball games.

The crowning jewel of orientation is found in the form of Tuesday night’s session. Ask any student staff member what their favourite presentation is during orientation and there’s a pretty good chance they’ll say the Can I Kiss You? Consent Keynote. With one of the most engaging and funny presenters I’ve ever seen, plus the free swag, this presentation is always a massive hit with an important message.

Cohort programming

Shifting to a virtual residence experience made cohort programming much more accessible. With a wide variety of academic and non-academic cohorts, there were more opportunities this year than ever before to meet people with similar interests and in similar faculties.

Over 10 cohort events were held over the week and proved as a great way to find a community that feels right, and maybe even to find a virtual study buddy for some classes this year!

Community

From day one, the top priority of orientation is always making residence feel like home, and the best way to do that is by building a strong community. Connections started being made early on during community icebreakers. Hearing all the creative virtual name games in addition to all the old classics (raise your hand if your community played 2 truths and a lie) was pretty neat.

I’ll be honest. With orientation being online this year, I wasn’t sure what to expect going in. Now having made it through the week, I would say the residence orientation programs were a pretty big success. Whether it was a conversation struck up while standing 6 feet apart in line at the caf, or bonding over a particularly challenging word to guess during online Pictionary, I was so happy to see new friendships being made and to see the residence community coming together to pull off the first ever residence orientation during a pandemic at the U of A.