Advice for Tackling OWeek

Oweek stage at night with a crowd of students from oweek 2022.

Written by: Kitt Kong, a recent graduate from the Urban Development and GIS program
Photo by: Western Communications

September is coming quickly after what seems like a nonexistent summer, the month where Canadian academia decided to schedule the start of the school year. A fresh start, Western is excited to welcome incoming first years moving to London, and for some, it will be their first time away from home. It must be simultaneously nerve-wracking yet thrilling as you are about to discover yourself and make lifelong connections from your home away from home. From your first exploration of campus and your residence to the adventures of Orientation Week (OWeek), I'll be sharing a bit about OWeek, my experiences during 2019, and about Sophs and other student leaders.

OWeek is a wonderful culmination of programming organized by your University Students Council (USC) and Western staff across campus. They put in work all summer to ensure that first years can enjoy these events that are meant to help students integrate into the Western community because it can be daunting to find your footing when you start out in a fresh environment, especially when it's overtaken by a bunch of intimidating geese. When you make the effort to step out to the events, you'll see that there are many other students in the same spot as you: nervous, excited, and ready to make connections.

I remember I was scared for move-ins and OWeek, remembering the odd-looking people in the coveralls and shades, with colors that can be brighter than the glow sticks at dances from elementary school. Some of them had dyed their hair or put it up in a goofy hairstyle. I thought they looked funny. For a second, I had to ask myself if I was in a dream. However, after my first fire alarm at Saugeen and having to climb the 20+ flights of stairs to get to 9Mid, I realized it was all real.

Throughout the week, I never paid attention to my worries, because it never came up. I was able to quickly bond with my floor and random people here and there, and my friends and I would choose which events we wanted to attend. There were so many things to see and do, so attending all of them was unfeasible. Furthermore, once you start meeting others, you get invited to other events so very rarely do things go entirely as planned, but you do experience the beginning of the formation of lifelong friendships during this week.

For my last year, I got to experience OWeek on the sidelines, as part of the Varsity Cheerleading team. They are a group of wonderful athletes, hyping up the crowd during the week and trying to get new recruits to join in on the tradition. I saw some new students try out the sport on Concrete Beach and they ended up loving it, and now they are happy team members. Maybe you'll see them doing backflips and stunts across campus and during the football games!

A picture of the 2022 Western cheerleading team.

Pictured: The Western Mustangs Varsity Cheerleading team pictured fall 2022 at a tailgate pre-game.

I want to talk more about my OWeek experiences, but I also do not want to spoil them for you or give you unrealistic expectations. I want you to experience this beginning for yourself. You deserve to choose where to be, who to be with, and what you want to obtain out of OWeek. I think that you get to design that, and each of you are unique and will form your own perceptions and experiences. I hope they will become fond memories you look back at when your time at Western comes to an end and beyond. I just hope that you will be safe and responsible during the week, as well as respectful of others and the environment.

The oddly dressed-up characters that I mentioned around campus are known as Sophs, and they are there to help you. You will most likely be most familiar with your residence and faculty Sophs, as they have closest contact with you. Things have changed, as my residence Sophs would be on my floor, making them more accessible. When I became a Soph, I didn't live in residence, making it harder to interact with my group of first years. My advice: reach out to your Sophs and become familiar with them! They are there to support you throughout the year, with residence and off-campus Sophs providing overall support in the community and campus, and faculty Sophs supporting you with your academics. They will help guide you in the right direction depending on your concerns, whether it is talking to you about Intent to Registers (ITRs) or specifics about a course.

A picture of Kitt's Soph team.

Pictured: Top of UC Hill September 2021, Saugeen-Maitland Soph Team

I loved being a Soph, and you can see how much Sophs truly care for the community at Western. I keep in contact with my first years to this day, and I hope they know that they can come to me for anything. For some of you, this mentorship will be a transformative experience in your later years should you choose to embrace that path. Furthermore, your student government is also there for you, in the form of faculty councils and the main executive councils. They are great places to go to address concerns, meet people, and engage in different opportunities across campus.

Learn more about the USC, what they do, and your current (amazing) executives. You'll see them running around campus during OWeek for sure, so say hi!

To conclude, I just want to reiterate that you have the ability to do what you want during OWeek. Go out and form new connections. You never know what it may lead to. While some of the longstanding traditions in our community change with time, the sense of community and empowering environment does not.

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.- Carl Gustav Jung

Memorable OWeek Highlights:

Football Game
A great time to support the Western Mustangs, one of the best if not the best team in the OUA. See the Mustangs in action at Alumni Stadium on the evening of September 3. They will be facing the McMaster Marauders on home turf. You'll see the lively football community that includes students and alumni, as well as the cheerleading team and the horses that do their rounds after every Mustang touchdown.

Welcome Waves
Previously known as One Love, this programming aims to spread love and positivity throughout campus through messages celebrating diversity and inclusion. Attending and listening to the amazing performances will surely make your heart warm. The bravery of the speakers and artists on stage is inspirational, making it a meaningful Western OWeek tradition.

Global Village
Global Village is another longstanding OWeek tradition, as it is a multi-cultural event to celebrate and highlight various cultural groups within the Western community. It is amazing to see and learn from all the cultural groups that are represented.

Orientation Serves (OServes)
Incoming students take a day to lend their hand to volunteer within the London community. Participating in this day of service allows for a meaningful connection to the local environment and to give back in whichever way you choose.

Download the USC Now app to gain access to OWeek schedules, announcements, events, and programming information.

Welcome home, Mustangs class of 27. Time flies, so make these years something you'll be proud of when you look back.

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