First day of school! First day of school! Nothing’s as overwhelming as the first day of school!

Trent, like many other universities begins the school year with Introductory Seminar Week (ISW), a time for new students to adjust to and get excited about the next four years of their lives.

The events taking place during ISW range from campus orientations to Build a Batmobile, showing university is not just about work, it’s about having fun; and fun always makes things seem a little less scary.

What might surprise students, however, is that until 2011, Trent’s ISW used to be a five day event, beginning on Labour Day Monday and running until the following weekend.

“As Trent was expanding the amount of courses that it had, it meant that exams went later and later [into December]” explains Braden Freer, president of the Trent Central Student Association.

When the decision was made by the university administration in March 2011 to begin classes on the Thursday after Labour Day—instead of the following Monday—so that exams could end earlier, it meant that ISW was cut by two days.

At the time, many students, including those involved in running ISW, spoke out against the shortened “week,” arguing that three days would not give students enough time to get accustomed to life at Trent.

However, in the three years since the change came into effect it seems that the three day ISW has been well received.

“Since this decision was made we have seen many benefits … new students feel supported by the leaders on campus,” says Sako Khederlarian, Trent’s Orientation Co-ordinator.

Sako Khederlarian by Kevin Ross
Sako Khederlarian by Kevin Ross

One of the main concerns of shortening ISW to three days was that incoming students would be missing out on the full experience of a five day week, but that has not been the case.

Not only are students getting the same experience of a five day ISW, there are actually more events in the three days than ever before. “There haven’t been any activities that were cut with the change,” says Khederlarian.

Five days is a long time to be participating in a Triwizard Tournament and to be cheering like you’ve never cheered before. So it comes as no surprise that students were exhausted after five days of constant fun. “Students often felt burned out by the time the week was over” shares Khederlarian.

Having a three day ISW has meant that students have some time to themselves to come down from the excitement.

According to Freer, “incoming students get homesick and are anxious to start classes. A three day ISW means they don’t have to wait another week to begin class.”

One of the benefits of having three day ISW has been that there are now upper year students on campus Thursday and Friday which means that arriving students have a chance to interact with upper years and vise versa.

“I don’t know if that was the desired effect, to get them involved with first years, but it has been a nice change,” says Freer. “First years can talk to older students from their majors.”

Though the three day ISW has been well received by some, others still believe that a five day ISW would be better for new students.

Ishu Sekhon, a psychology student going into his fourth year says that he thoroughly enjoyed his five day ISW.

Sharing some of the same concerns as those opposed to the change, Sekhon recognizes that it takes time for students to digest their move to university.

“Five days, I think, gives you open space to get acquainted with Trent, gives an easier transition,” he says, describing five day ISW as having a different level of comfort, allowing for a soft transition to Trent.

Every new student entering Trent is completely different than their resident roommate or the individual down the hall. Some people are outgoing and some people are shy; some are loud and some are quiet.

Though there will always be benefits to having a five day ISW, the fact of the matter is that no one wants to be writing their last exam on Christmas Eve.

The switch to a three day ISW is the best of both worlds; exams will end earlier and first year students still have the opportunity to experience Trent for everything it has to offer both academically and socially.

“I was around to see the change and it was shocking; not bad shocking, just different” describes Freer.