York’s 2020 Frosh Week: virtual edition

York Orientation 2018 at the York Lions Stadium. (Courtesy of yFile)

Many educational institutions around the world, including York, have adjusted their orientation week, also commonly referred to as Frosh Week, on to a virtual setting. York’s orientation week ran virtually between September 5 and 13.

Orientation was hosted online by the colleges and faculties, including York International, the Faculty of Graduate Studies, the Atkinson Centre for Mature and Part-time Students, and Student Accessibility Services. 

    The York Orientation Directors Association spent all summer reimagining what orientation could be.

According to York’s Deputy Spokesperson, Yanni Dagonas, virtual orientation was “a great way to meet new people, discover campus resources, and learn all about your degree while providing you with a smooth transition into university.” 

“Credit for this year’s orientation events goes to the York Orientation Directors Association, a group that coordinates and brings together all of the Orientation Week student organizers including college and faculty councils and YFS,” Dagonas adds.

As York’s orientation transitioned into a completely virtual event, The York Orientation Directors Association “spent all summer reimagining what orientation could be to help welcome the incoming class and build those crucial community connections,” says Ross McMillan, the director of community and leadership development in the division of students. 

“It’s been incredible to see all this creativity and planning come into place,” McMillan adds.

Regarding online orientation, Isabella Lidbetter, a first-year theatre student and froshie, states: “Everyone was welcoming and understood that we are all in this together and we are all learning how to cope with this. The events were well thought out and it was a great way to get comfortable with the university and to get acquainted with everyone.”

With events such as online open mics, virtual campfire games, movie nights, and online events including dance parties, first-year York students had “the opportunity to show off talents, share experiences and make the most of their Orientation Week and disprove the common belief that a virtual frosh could not be fun,” says fourth-year kinesiology student Nassal Roxas.

York International’s intention with orientation was to welcome students to university life at York. “Our hope was to provide a welcoming environment for new international students where they could build connections with other students, develop a sense of belonging with the York community and learn about the key virtual resources at York and how to access them,”  York International said in a statement.

With regards to student accessibility services, Maureen Barnes, the director of student accessibility services, says their orientation was intended to connect students to help them through their university life.

   We were all reminded that York’s motto is ‘the way must be tried’ and it is through that same mindset that the York College community put together a way to bring people closer in a time where we can feel so far apart.

“Students who register with Student Accessibility Services can connect to both our services and the broader York community through our orientation sessions, Connect for Success. The series focuses on how to learn virtually, support on campus, and how to collaborate with faculty around their academic accommodation needs,” Barnes says. 

Alongside York International and Student Accessibility Services, the Faculty of Graduate Studies held their annual event, the Grad Social, virtually for the first time on September 8. Thomas Loebel says the event was created through ‘Easy Virtual Fair,’ and simulated the conventional orientation fair experience through virtual booths. “Students could take part in Zoom Q&As on funding, awards, accommodations, and wellness services, as well as a range of guest services.”

McMillan further says that York’s orientation day had to be completely reconceptualized to support the incoming class. “Still, we wanted to keep some hallmark pieces from previous years that student’s have told us are helpful in their transition,” McMillan says.

“Although frosh is virtual this year, I think it will bring out the creativity of all of the students involved with the planning of frosh, from orientation chairs (or o-chairs), president executive teams, frosh leaders and captains,” states 2020 Schulich alumna Avnit Chhabra, addressing virtual frosh. “I truly believe this change is going to be good because now the incoming students can be a part of so many activities through the comfort of their homes.”

Chhabra adds: “I had the pleasure of being involved with day one of orientation during opening ceremonies as its tradition for the last year o-chairs to ‘pass down the flag’ to the current o-chairs. Although there was no passing down of the flag this year, I was able to convey my message to the froshies virtually.” 

As for his experience with frosh this year, Roxas says that York’s college community came together to make the best of the situation. 

“During frosh trivia Kahoot! night we were all reminded that York’s motto is ‘the way must be tried’ and it is through that same mindset that the York College community put together a way to bring people closer in a time where we can feel so far apart,” Roxas says.

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By Wasifa Noshin


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