Things That Every Orientation Leader Should Consider (Dalhousie University)

Thursday, September 1st, 2011 was a turning point in my life. After a long, dull, irksome summer in a small town, I was finally moving back to Halifax for my 2nd year at Dalhousie. I would describe my feelings at the time as a cross between euphoric and ecstatic. I could barely contain myself.  In between these thoughts of excitement, I found myself getting momentary bursts of nervousness. I was about to have my first experience as an Orientation Leader for O-Week, and I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

                If you’re reading this as someone who is planning on being a first time Orientation Week Leader, I would like to let you know that you’re about to experience one of the most memorable, tiring, spirited, strenuous, and overall amazing weeks of your life. You probably won’t enjoy the early morning wake-up calls, and your pledge to remain sober for the week may present a challenge for some of you, but I can guarantee that you will meet many great people and that you will learn to test your limits as a leader.  I had an extremely positive experience, but there were a few things that I wish that I would have known before Orientation week that would have made my job easier and less stressful. I’ve taken it upon myself to compile my experiences along with the experiences of others in order to prepare future O-Week Leaders with essential information and tips that they can use to make sure that Orientation Week runs as smoothly as possible.  Keep in mind that this is all based on past experience, and that your experience may be completely different than my own or anyone else’s.

                You’ll be expected to attend a Leader Training Camp a few days before the O-Week kick-off, which was one of my favorite parts of the whole experience.  First off, you’ll be handed a manual of rules and regulations that you’ll have to know for the week, but don’t panic! By the end of the Training Camp, you’ll have gone over everything that you’ll need to know. The goal of these initial days is to ensure that each leader can provide the incoming freshmen with the experience that they expect and deserve.   This whole concept may intimidate you, but you’ll quickly notice that the atmosphere of the training camp is very laid back and stress-free. Have fun with it, and soak up as much information as possible. 

Before you know it, the eager and terrified 1st years will be arriving on campus. If you’re leading a group of students living on campus, you’ll probably be expected to help the new students move their things into their room. If you’re leading an OCUS group (a group of students who are not living on campus), your fun begins now!  Keep a smile on your face, and take the following things into consideration:

  • You’re a role model

The most important thing that an O-Week leader needs to remember is that they are a role model for the incoming freshmen, and they have the power to make or break their initial Dalhousie experience.   In order to be a good role model, you’re going to have to follow the rules (which will be detailed for you during O-Week Leader training), and be respectful of your peers and surroundings. Everything that you do during the first few days will be setting an example for what is and what is not acceptable, and it wouldn’t be beneficial to anyone involved to misrepresent the ways in which we do things at Dalhousie.

Part of your job as a leader is to get your 1st years excited about the events that are planned. Your energy and enthusiasm will be mirrored by the team that you’re leading, so it is up to you to make sure that the freshmen of your house get excited. Make sure that you attend every event that you possibly can, and keep a smile on your face at all times.

  • Communication is key

Communication was the biggest challenge for my team during O-Week. On the day that the new students were moving in, the O-Week leaders of our team made sure to inform the residents on our floor that we were holding a meeting to introduce ourselves and explain what was going on for the week.  I highly recommend doing this, as it is unlikely that the 1st years will be comfortable enough to come to you to ask questions, so it’s best to gather everyone and get it all done at once.  We gave a rundown of the planned events, and did a few ice breakers so that we could get to know each other. After the meeting, we went to the first event together. When our team got to the event, everyone got separated, and unfortunately, we had lost everyone for the remainder of the day. The error that the leaders had made was that we didn’t get anyone’s contact information, nor did we schedule a second meeting, so we had no chance of reassembling our team until the next day.  We had to walk around and inform everyone about the second meeting individually, which is very time consuming.  Another idea would be to give all of the first years your cell phone number so that they can call you if they get separated from the group.

  • O-Week is about the 1st years, not yourself

Keep in mind that you have already had your chance to be a freshman. If you’re planning on using your status of an O-Week Leader as a way to find parties, you should know that you’re better off trying another way. As a leader, you’re not only committing to staying sober for the week (you’re under contract), you’re also committing to making sure that every single member of your team has a great experience. You’ll have plenty of time over the duration of the year to socialize and catch up with your friends, so make sure to avoid forming cliques. Strive to be inclusive. Talk to everyone, and make sure to reach out to those who seem to not be enjoying themselves. A quick ‘Hey, how are your first few days at Dal going?’ can go a long way!

  • Be yourself (corny, but effective)

There is often a misconception with the definition of a ‘good leader’ where many feel that to be effective, you must be loud, crazy, and borderline obnoxious with your energy. While this approach may work for some (myself included), many will feel more comfortable taking a more laid back approach to leadership, which can be equally as effective. The 1st years will come in all different shapes, sizes, personalities, and backgrounds, and they’ll respond best to those with whom they can identify with. Be yourself, and many new students are bound to be able to identify with your unique leadership style.

                A great leader is not simply someone who can point the right direction. An effective leader is someone who knows their strengths, weaknesses, and when to when to step back to let someone else take charge. Orientation Week is designed to introduce Dalhousie’s newest students to the social and academic aspects of life on campus, and it is your job to make sure that this is achieved.  If there is one thing that you take away from this article, let it be that you need to stay positive and stay excited, no matter how much you would like to take a nap! I hope that you enjoy Orientation Week, because I know that I will.

A special thanks to Renee Kinden, Jessie Chisholm, Brittany Avery, and Becky Richter for contributing their experiences, thoughts, and more to this article. It is greatly appreciated!



The weight on my shoulders evaporates, gone.

Fireworks for fingers, my arms feel untamed.

My chest floats, yet my feet remain.

Thoughts of disbelief no more,


I wrote my first poem today. Five minutes ago, to be exact. I know absolutely nothing about poetry, but I know that it felt good to write this. It accurately describes the day that I’ve had today. Happy Monday, everyone!

Opinions (and what to do with them)

I’m a very opinionated individual. I was discussing this with a friend a few minutes ago, and he supported my claim with saying that “Very opinionated is an understatement.’. My opinion on any matter is never a secret.

I didn’t fully appreciate how opinonated I am until today when I was writing a piece for a new writing gig that I’ve got on the go. I was writing about my experiences in university student residences, particularily the residence that I’ve been living in for the past 2 years. I was asked to write to a general audience of students, which meant that it would be best to keep it as unbiased as possible and refrain from simply stating that I honestly believe that my residence was the best on campus. It pained me to keep my opinion out of the articles.

New challenges will help me grow as a writer, I suppose!

Warm regards,


Never forget what you are, for surely the world won’t.

“Never forget who you are, for surely the world won’t. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones


I first came across this quote a few months ago when I started reading the‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series and it has been etched into my mind ever since. If everyone followed this logic, we’d become a generation of confident and intrepid individuals, and I can’t imagine this would have anything but a positive effect.

The first thing that popped into my mind when I read these words of wisdom from Martin was ‘coming out of the closet’ a few years back (typical, of course I would bring it back to this, eh?). I’d imagine that I’m not the only gay in the world who has taken this curveball of homosexuality (note: hate that word, it makes me feel like I’m reading a textbook) that life has thrown at them and turned it into a positive, but it’s amazing how much my life improved after I took this ’embarrassing’ quality and turned it into a part of me for everyone to see. My first thought when I finally came out was ‘Why didn’t I do this sooner?’.

Take all of the qualities about yourself that you can’t change, good and bad, and put them on display. As Tyrion Lannister said, if you use it as your defence, no one can use it against you.

Warm Regards,


P.S.: For some reason this feels like an appropriate time to share my favorite reaction that I’ve had to telling someone that I’m gay. I was at a party back in high school, and for some reason it seemed like an appropriate time to go from person to person exclaiming my new revelation. Looking back, this probably wasn’t the best idea, since I come from a hillbilly-type rural farm area. My news was met with a lot of  unintentially rude responses such as ‘Oh, I’ve known forever!’ and ‘I knew before you did’, but one of my good friends said one of the sweetest things anyone has ever said to me: “I’d still love you all the same even if you told me that you were attracted to ant-eaters”. Hehe. Still makes me smile.

Things Every Freshman Should Consider

The transition into University life can be a daunting. I was a short 40 minute drive from home and I still found the change fairly overwhelming. New people, new city, new home, new classes, new everything. Part of the reason was that I had absolutely no idea what to expect. A lot of stress could have been avoided if I could go back in time and tell Wee Little First Year Josh a few important things, but I don’t think that can happen. Instead of hiring someone to build a time machine, I’ve taken it upon myself to talk a bit about my troubles and my experiences in hopes that I can reduce the stress of the unexpected and unknown for future Dalhousians (and students of other schools for that matter)! I asked for input of others, which I’ll include at the end.

  • You don’t have to have your whole life planned out just yet.

When I recieved my acceptance letter during the Summer after high school, it seemed to me that it was set in stone that I was going to be getting a Bachelor of Arts in 4 years. What most people don’t realize about going into university is that there is flexibility to go down a different path in your studies if you should decide to do so. After my first year in the Arts program, I realized that I didn’t like the road that I was headed down so I looked into other programs. I couldn’t explain why, but for some reason the Management program caught my eye and had me very interested. I made an appointment with Academic Advising, they sent me on my way to switching my program. Not only was it a smooth transition into another program, but I’m also able to graduate on time which I didn’t expect! The bottom line is that your first year can be used as a year for exploring different areas of study, and you shouldn’t worry about not knowing exactly what you want to do with your life. Calm down and enjoy it.

  • There are many other programs besides BA and BSc.

Before starting classes, I was under the impression that Dal offered two things: BA and BSc. Little did I know that I had a huge array of programs to choose from (see Dalhousie Undergrad Programs). The biggest regret of my academic career is not fully looking into these programs when I was fresh out of high school. It would have opened so many new opportunities for me! Don’t make my mistake and think that you only have a simple choice between Arts and Sciences. Radiological Technology, anyone?

  • Get involved

Dal offers an obsene amount of opportunities to get involved on campus. Activities ranging from free Zumba and Yoga classes (see Dalplex) to Quidditch games (Harry Potter fans are accepted here at Dalhousie ;)). A huge regret of mine is not getting involved sooner. The best days of my time at Dal so far have been directly related to putting myself out there and making an effort to get involved, which I didn’t start doing until half way through my second year. There are always opportunities to get involved in your Residence councils (talk to your Hall presidents), and tons of societies and organizations that are always looking for new members.

For people who are living in residence, please take this piece of advice: participate in every single O-Week (frosh week) event that you can! This is the best opportunity to make friends, since everyone else is going to be scared shitless just like you. I was a typical Frosh during my O-Week, and I ended up being too hungover to attend any events. This resulted in a tough time trying to make friends in my Rez since everyone had started to form their cliques.

  • Don’t even think about skipping class ‘just this once’.

Just don’t skip class. Just don’t. It’s so easy promise yourself that you’ll go to EVERY other class for the rest of the year, but guess what? You won’t. Skipping one class makes you feel like it’s okay to skip a second class, and pretty soon you’ve realized that you haven’t been to a class all week…and then all month…and then OOPS, you’re at the final exam and you’ve only been to 3 lectures all year. Danger danger danger, just don’t do it. Believe me. Just don’t.

  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

At a family gathering a few months before my first year, someone had said ‘Good luck at school! Just make sure you pass!’. At the time I found this insulting. I mean, of course I’m going to pass, right? Well let me tell you, a lot of you are going to have a rude awakening after your first set of midterms. But guess what? So are the rest of the students in your class. University is hard, plain and simple. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and expect to maintain your A+ average from high school. That is unreasonable to ask of yourself during your first year and you’re only going to wear yourself out. The famous saying ‘D’s get Degrees’ has some genius behind it. 😉 Relax and take advantage of this exciting time in your life instead of beating yourself up for getting a A- instead of an A (believe me, you’ll learn to get excited when you get an A-).

If I would have known these 5 things going into my freshman year, I would have been golden…except for that whole part where I got diagnosed with diabetes 2 months in, but that’s besides the point. I asked some of my Twitter followers and Facebook friends to tell me what they wish they knew going into this, and here are a few of the responses that I got:

Christina (‏@XtinaBoom91): Don’t study all the time, you need to make time for down time or you’ll lose your mind.

Melanie (‏@smelanieosborne): There are more options than a bach of science and a bach of arts.

Emma (‏@EmmaTompkins1): It’s good to work hard but don’t put too much pressure on yourself, it may become too much to handle and get help when you need it

Bianca (‏@BeeMWalsh): When living in Halifax, invest in a pair of rubber boots and don’t bother with an umbrella. People will just laugh at you.

Meagan (‏@Meagancam): You don’t have to decide your life/career/degree right away! Go into 1st year with an open mind & test things out

Emma ‏@emmaneynens: participate in as many frosh week and res activities as possible

Livia A: Wish I knew that when you’re a girl, there’s no way you need the unlimited meal plan, you’re just asking for the Freshman 15.

Sarah M.: Studying actually works

Sarah S.: Making new friends is easier than one might think!!

Warm Regards,


P.S. If you enjoyed this article, I suggest you check out my post about Dal Rez Life!

Overview of Dalhousie University Residence Life

I’m heading into my 3rd year at Dalhousie University, where I’m studying to get a Bachelor of Management. I love Dal with all of my heart and to say that I’ve enjoyed my first 2 years in residence would be a vast understatement. I loved it so much that I’m heading back as Risley Hall President for the upcoming term.

I distinctly remember getting my Rez room info letter. ‘Howe Hall, Cameron House, room 301’. I had no idea what that meant, but I was ecstatic anyway. I searched high and low all of over the internet to find some tidbit of information about my new home, but all I could find was that my building was ancient. Fun!

I’d imagine that there were many other frosh with the same issue as me. I almost would have killed someone for the chance to know more about where I was going to be living. I’ve taken it upon myself to do a little write-up on all of the residences on Dalhousie campus. Please note that these are only MY opinions and experiences, so if you don’t like what you’re reading, post a comment and give me your 2 cents!

I’ll start with Howe Hall, since that was my first experience of Rez life at Dal. Howe is the largest residence at Dal, holding just over 700 people. It has its own cafeteria inside the building. I think it’s safe to say that Howe is considered the ‘party rez’ at Dal, but it also offers some low key sections in the building (as do all of the residences). Howe is divided up into a few different houses. There aren’t many differences between the houses, but there are a few:

  • Fountain house is the newest house, which features single rooms with a sink (major bonus).
  • Cameron house has a reputation for being the busiest house (read: people are drunk every day and night).

After a few months of the crazy parties in Howe, I decided to request a room transfer to Risley Hall, and I’m very glad I did. The switch from a double room with a roommate to a single room with a sink was a very welcome one. Risley is the newest residence at Dal, which is evident in the cleanliness compared to the other buildings on campus. Risley also has it’s own cafeteria in the lobby. The building is divided into 6 floors, each featuring their own lounge (flat screen TV!!) and kitchenette. Risley has the highest rate of returning residents (more than 50% of students that lived in Risley last year opted to keep their room for next year), which goes to show how satisfied students are with Dal rez life. Risley has been my home for 2 years, and I can’t wait to get back for round 3!

I’ve only been in Shirreff Hall a handful of times, but the first thing I have to say is that they have the best cafeteria food of all of the residences (which may not sound like a very prestigious reputation to have, but anyone who has lived a year on Dal rez food will understand). Shirreff is fairly old, but the rooms have a certain charm that you wouldn’t get in any other residence. I’ve heard a few ghost stories about the happenings inside, too, which could make for an interesting year.

Eliza Ritchie gets a bad reputation, and I think the main reason for that is the sketchy exterior. I mean, it looks like a prison. Regardless of the aestetics of the building, I’ve noticed that people in Eliza tend to form very tight knit groups of friends, which probably has to do with the small size of the rez. These tight knit groups are harder to find in large residences such as Howe and Risley (although not impossible! We had a very large tight knit group on my floor in Risley this year). Eliza doesn’t have its own cafeteria inside, but luckily it’s right across the road from the Shirreff cafeteria.

Mini Rez is another small residence that never fails to form tightly knit groups of friends. Mini Rez is essentially 5 old homes that were renovated into rez rooms. Some of the houses are connected to each other while others stand alone. All of the houses are joined by a cute little courtyard in the middle. For the most part, Mini Rez features much larger rooms than the other residences. If I had to choose another residence besides Risley, I would pick Mini Rez in a heart beat. Unfortunately, Mini Rez doesn’t have a cafeteria, but it’s only a short walk to Howe or Risley. Eliza is right in front of the DalPlex with is an ideal location if you plan on heading there often.

Gerard and O’Brien are the two residences on Sexton campus, which is about a 20 minute walk from Studley campus (where most Arts, Commerce, Science, and Management classes are), which is often a turn off for most people. Despite the walk and distance from the rest of the residences, I’ve heard nothing but good things from people who had lived there. It’s my understanding that some rooms in Gerard have sinks, but don’t quote me on that! O’Brien features a cafeteria which students from Gerard often share. The location is ideal for students in Engineering and other programs that have classes on Sexton.

Dal also offers apartment style residence (Glengary), but I’d be lying if I said that I knew anything about it. If you have any input, please shoot me a message!

Let’s break it down:

  • Howe: Party Rez.
  • Risley: New rez, clean, single rooms with sinks, great Lounge areas.
  • Shirreff: Best food, charming.
  • Eliza: Tight knit groups.
  • Mini Rez: Large rooms, tight knit groups.
  • Gerard & O’Brien: Sexton campus, never heard a bad thing about it.

All of the residences have their pros and cons,  but your experience will be what you make if it! Worst comes to worst, if you find yourself unhappy with your room placement, you can e-mail and request a room transfer.

Warm regards,


P.S.: If you found this helpful, you’d probably like to my other University related post too!

I’m not killing myself, I swear!

If I could get a message across to the whole world about what pisses me off most about being diabetic, it would be to mind your own business if I want to consecutively eat 4 bags of chips and an ice cream cone. I’m not comitting suicide, I swear! I’m a big boy and I can make my own decisions. If that decision involves me having to increase my insulin dosage at that given moment, so be it.

/end rant.

I have type 1 diabetes. Cool, eh? It isn’t so bad, except for the part where I have to stab myself with 4 needles a day, on top of pricking my poor little fingers to check my blood sugar every few hours (side note: is it just me, or does pricking hurt more that the injections?). Sometimes it’s fun to pretend that I’m a heroine addict when I’m in public and see people’s reactions when I whip out a needle and pretend to find a good vein in my arm. If that makes me strange then I don’t want to be normal.

I was diagnosed almost 2 years ago (November 2010), which happened to be my first year of University and first year away from home. Essentially this meant that I had to learn how to manage my glucose levels under the influence fairly quickly. I’d say I’ve become the guru of drunk diabetic decisions.

Please leave me in peace next time you see me eating my daily recommended intake of carbs in a single meal. Click a few extra notches on my insulin pen and I’ll be golden. 😉

Warm regards,