By Mina Todosijevic

Last Tuesday, a group of students ran a day-long event entitled U of T: A Social Experiment. The culmination of a year’s worth of organization, the event was created to target the perceived lack of community at U of T. Excerpts from their event description describe the university as “dangerously disconnected”. They aimed to fix this sense of working and living amongst strangers.

The image of St. George campus as intimidating and overwhelming is commonplace. People complain of feeling uninvolved with campus life and alienated from campus.

Varsity Stadium

Story time: My first impression of U of T was both underwhelming and incredibly disappointing. I spent the week before frosh helping my boyfriend move to the University of Ottawa. Running through campus trying to figure out how to get a meal plan, we were constantly surrounded by groups of cheering, dancing people, dressed up in faculty colours, each trying to outdo one another. By the time I left, my excitement for orientation week had grown fivefold.

When I stepped onto campus that first day, a heavy fog threatened rain. I got off at St. George station, clutching the papers I needed to register for orientation and re-reading the instructions over and over again.

I arrived at an empty campus, unsure of where to go. There were no guides or smiling faces, no school colours, not even cheers in the distant background.

I found my way to the UTSU, where someone took a look at my papers before sending me off to New College. At this point, I had already grown disillusioned with the whole experience. All my confidence in choosing U of T had slowly dissipated.

After getting lost cutting across campus to New College (twice), I finally found myself in Wetmore Hall. I barely had time to pull on a bright yellow t-shirt before I was thrown into a week of frenzied socialization and activities, not unlike the first day of summer camp. It was just as cheery, bright and enthusiastic as I had imagined. In a couple of days, I recognized about a fifth of the faces in my year, even though there were over 500 people participating in my orientation. When I started my first week of classes, running into familiar faces on my way to class effectively stopped that feeling of going to school with strangers. It made the university feel much smaller (cue “It’s a Small World” music).

Students at New College Orientation

What I’m trying to say is U of T is huge. It can feel overwhelming to tackle the whole campus at once, and that’s precisely what makes college communities so important. There’s a lot of pressure to compare campuses in terms of their size and social atmosphere, which isn’t realistic or representative of the experience you’ll get at the school.

If you are feeling disconnected from campus life, I would give you one piece of advice: get involved with your college! The college system is there to provide students with a sense of community and a place to call home on this oversized campus. Writing for The New this year has opened my eyes to the diversity and sheer number of events our College throws; from talks, to networking dinners, to mentorship programs and Studyfest events.

Goliath Gnu at the UTSU orientation parade

Whether you currently feel disconnected or not, get involved; it will change your life for the better.