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Toronto, Canada

312 Adelaide Street West, Suite 301
Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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Why Being an O-Week Leader is 100x Better Than You Think

Written by Gabriella DeBono

It’s 5:50 a.m. My phone alarm is blaring at my bedside. I struggle to open my crust-laden eyes, groggy from lack of sleep—I have to pull my eyelids open to stay awake. It’s 5:54 and my alarm is still going off. I figure I should get up.

I roll out of bed and throw on the same shirt and pants I’ve been wearing for the past week. “Just one more day,” I mumble before lazily brushing my teeth. I look in the mirror and can’t help but laugh—from my paint-splattered scrubs to the black circles under my eyes, I look ridiculous. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Most first-year students have fond memories of orientation week. Whether it was a certain performer that gave you goosebumps or a person who made you laugh until you nearly peed your pants, everyone has an O-Week memory that stands out. My best memory is watching fireworks with a bunch of strangers—we cuddled with one another because it was so cold. Since that day, I haven’t even seen most of those people. But in that moment, they were like family to me.

I participated in O-Week again this year not as a student, but as a second-year orientation week leader (or “soph,” as we call them at Western).

Throughout first year, I’d heard horror stories about becoming a soph. Many of them detailed hellishly long days and a promise of (almost) zero sleep. But despite that, I knew I wanted to be one. I was nervous during the application process, but I felt more confident than anything else. I soon learned that getting the position would be the easiest part of it all.

September 7th was our first day of leadership after four whole months of O-Week training and team bonding. I was excited at the idea of being a school ambassador and a source of student guidance, but was I ready for it? I had no idea. On that morning, though, I carried 13 heavy mini-fridges into the school’s residence in nearly 40-degree weather. At 5’3”, I didn’t think I’d be able to do any such thing. But I did. And it was awesome.

After that long first day of lifting and labeling, we barely had a second to rest before teaching students cheers and pretending to have energy shining out of our asses. We were like camp counselors on steroids. In what felt like a single blink’s time, we were at opening ceremonies on day two of O-Week. Another blink later, I was walking a drunk girl home from a dance. On the third day, after four hours of sleep, I was banging on my floor’s doors and honking air horns to wake up students for the day ahead. In a blur of way too much EDM, cheering, impromptu naps, and laughing until tears fell from my eyes, the week had nearly come to a close. Despite being awake for twenty hours a day, every day, it had all gone by too quickly for my liking.

The old adage of “time flies when you’re having fun” had never been truer for me, because being an O-Week leader was one of the most interesting and entertaining experiences of my life.

Helping first-years get through the same things I once did was incredibly rewarding. I learned that I feel more fulfilled by helping others than going nuts to a bass drop (but doing that with my team was great, too). I’ll cherish countless memories from this past O-Week right alongside my lovely fireworks memory. More importantly, I’ll always appreciate the whole team of O-Week leaders who were always there if you needed a shoulder to cry on or someone to laugh with. Being an O-Week leader was definitely tiring, but the experience was absolutely unreal. Now that it’s over, I think it may be time to squeeze a day-long nap into my schedule. Or two.

Got any memorable O-Week experiences? Were you an O-Week leader or planning on being one? We wanna hear about it—let us know in the comments below.

Featured Photo by Queens Alumni via FlickR

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.