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Students slide into new school year at Georgian

Georgian College's Orillia campus hosts orientation for new and returning students

Attending a new college can be an exciting and intimidating experience, even for those who are just an hour’s drive from home.

Georgian College held an orientation Tuesday at its Orillia campus, giving students like Penetanguishene’s Brianna Labatte a chance to get to know her new surroundings.

“It helps a lot,” Labatte said of the event. “It helps you meet new people and feel more comfortable with a new school.”

Labatte, who transferred to Georgian from Niagara College in Welland to study private investigations and security, wasn’t entirely alone. Her high school friend, Bailey Bowering, is also starting her first year at Georgian.

“I didn’t want to go too far from my hometown,” said the Midland woman, who is studying social service work.

Bowering said she was “excited, but not really that nervous” about starting school.

Not everyone feels as relaxed about the new adventure. Amber Scott knows that, and she was on hand Tuesday to equip students with all the information they need about services that are available to help them focus on their mental health.

“They need to know that there are services available, whether it’s for stress or something more serious,” said Scott, ambassador for Georgian’s Wellness and Health Action Team.

The second-year social service worker student remembers last year’s orientation session and how she benefited from it.

“It was great to get to know other people in your program, and the faculty,” she said. “I didn’t feel so alone.”

That’s the point, according to Scott Mason, president of the Georgian College Students’ Association in Orillia.

“This is the day when they start developing those friendships with their fellow students,” he said.

When Mason started school a few years ago, orientation was “one of the better days.”

“Not only did I meet all of my best friends that day, but we’re still all friends today,” he said.

About 1,800 students are enrolled at Georgian Orillia, whose three residence buildings are full with between 240 and 250 people who opted to live on campus.

“It’s important for students who want the residence experience. It gives them an opportunity to have a different post-secondary experience,” said Stephanie Dimech, dean of human services and community safety.

The city benefits from it, too, as “it positions Georgian College as not just a commuter college,” she said.

That means more students in town, spending money and contributing in their own ways.

“Students bring a whole different energy to town. We’re small but mighty,” Dimech said. “We’re quite fortunate in Orillia to have the residence.”