By Khushy Vashisht
It’s been a long four months since we’d last been on campus. As soon as we walked in, my friends and I looked around and muttered half-sarcastic, half-serious (mostly serious) remarks.
“Oh… so this is what it must feel like to get a normal university welcome,” I murmured while watching people faceplant onto the giant obstacle course set up in the quad.
Meanwhile, my friend Zoha only cared about what the different booths offered: “Let’s just go get free shit.” As if any of us needed any more pins, pens or tumblers.
Then, right after, we reminisced about our own orientation two years ago—and immediately began to complain.
It was a muggy, August morning in 2021. After waking up at the brink of dawn—12 p.m.—I dragged myself out of bed and three feet over to my desk to start my first year of journalism at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU): Zoom edition.
We were in the middle of one of the COVID-19 pandemic’s most prominent waves and orientation events hosted by TMU were basically all online. It was clear that this current “new normal” wasn’t changing anytime soon.
In a way, it was a good thing. I could scope out any potential hotties who actually dared to have their camera on—I was not one of them—dissect people’s personalities from the pixelated makings of their bedroom in the background and ultimately just not give a shit.
Watching people read off the screen as I’m zoning out in my pajamas while spinning in my chair doesn’t really scream, “Welcome to the next chapter of your life! Time waits for no one! It will go by in a blink, you’ll never see it coming!”
Honestly, learning anything about the program or the university was just secondary to me—if that.
As I wondered out loud, “Where did we get the budget to do all this,” my friends were too busy scarfing down whatever was being served by the Toronto Metropolitan Students’ Union (TMSU) tables. Once one of them finally came up for air, they pointed out that our tuition was probably being spent more on this than campus safety measures.
See, I always thought I was okay with the journalism department’s valiant efforts to host an engaging introduction to the next four years of our lives. I mean, hearing someone chat on the phone over their unmuted mic and having the presenter go a good 10 minutes of talking before realizing they haven’t shared their screen really makes up for the in-person human experience. Two years later, however, and I think I’ve finally snapped.
Being a commuter student is hard enough—even today’s freshmen know that. The exhaustion of travelling paired with everyone leaving as soon as their class ends doesn’t really provide stellar moments to strike up a conversation with anyone other than your teaching assistant. Now imagine having to go through that with limited and delayed in-person experiences. It only further shows the lack of the “typical university experience” we received. It didn’t take long for resentment to build up against the younger years that somehow all looked older than me.
Listen, I love any kind of freebie I can get my hands on—this year’s freshmen had it all. From food, drinks and clothes to bouncy castles—yes, I do, in fact, care about bouncy castles at my grown age—and even handing out Google Pixels to students??? Bitterness seeped right into my body from the free coffee being handed out.
There was only one thing left to do: pretend I’m the same dimwitted first-year student I was in 2021 and live vicariously through the actual first years…which was not so different from the last year or so. I mean, they got senior prom, a high school graduation ceremony and most importantly, closure. What did I get? Not even graduation pictures. Sue me for wanting to be them for just a little while.
Nothing felt more upsetting than watching first-years pelt each other in the face with water balloons. There’s a list of people I know now that I’d personally be aiming for.
I know I should be happy for them but apparently I’m a certified hater from birth and it’s hard to see people get the things that should have been mine too. So, I will continue to sulk and wish I had the typical welcoming into university life, let alone ideal!
But hey! Once the fake pleasantries of orientation week wears off and all the upper-years stop pretending like they actually like the university and its downtown-core campus, I don’t think it’ll take long for reality to kick in. I don’t know what’ll burst their bubble and bring them right back to the ground, the commute to an 8 a.m. class or the very real possibility of some stranger from the street getting into any of their buildings.
Welcome to TMU, first-years! Sooner rather than later, you’ll find out how much this place sucks.