Student’s first-year experience leads to Smart Start role

Claire Gittins is ready to take on a new role that’s been a year in the making.

The 18-year-old Concurrent Education student is eagerly preparing to finish her first year at the University, but that doesn’t mean she will be leaving campus for the summer. Instead, she will be sticking around to share her experiences during the University’s Smart Start sessions. The orientation program, which runs from July 5 to Aug. 19, draws nearly 2,000 new students to campus during the summer to get a head start on their time at Brock.

For Gittins, the decision to help out with Smart Start was an easy one. After all, it was the same program that formally kicked off her time at the University a year ago.

Claire Gittins

Claire Gittins, seated front left, joined the Clean Earth Foundation to tidy the trails around the University during her first year at Brock.

“That was the first day I felt like everything was really happening,” she said. “They showed you how to pick your courses and find your way around.”

Though the Port Colborne native was attending the event with her twin brother, Spencer, the pair parted ways when it came time to tour their chosen residences. This led to a fortuitous meeting.

“I was the only person who went on the residence tour without a parent or friend,” she said. “But the tour guide made sure to learn my name and get to know me. On moving day, she was there to give me my keys and it felt like I was moving home because I already knew someone.”

After settling in, Gittins embraced the activities of Orientation Week with the same open mind she had brought to Smart Start, and her attitude led to positive interactions with other members of the Brock community.

“I went to an A-Z Learning Services clinic during my first week and learned how to take great notes, which has been really helpful,” she said. “And my English professor actually personally showed me how to look for literary criticisms in the library.”

Other highlights followed as the year progressed and Gittins took on the task of living on her own for the first time.

“Living in residence has been awesome,” she said. “My don puts on lots of fun activities in Vallee and I have made a lot of friendships that will carry on well after we have moved out.”

The wealth of new experiences Gittins enjoyed in her first year also extended beyond campus.

“I had also never been to see live basketball before I went to Brock’s big games against Carleton at the Meridian Centre,” she said. “You can see why we are known to have the best fans in Canada.”

To round out her busy schedule, Gittins has also joined several clubs, including the Creative Writing Club and English Students’ Association, which provided a taste of the inclusive atmosphere that the University provides.

“You are welcome anywhere in any group,” she said. “Clubs interact with other clubs, and there is something here for everyone on campus.”

Having made the most of her first year, Gittins felt she was qualified to provide a similarly seamless transition to the one she had enjoyed during Smart Start the previous summer.

“I knew that I could share about my own awesome experience,” she said. “And I loved going on the tours, coming to Open House and going over all of the information as well.”

The only challenge Gittins faces in preparing for the role is the desire to get started right away.

“Every time I see a group of students going on a tour, I have to resist the urge to jump in and interact with them,” she said. “It’s exciting for them, and I can’t wait to share all of the great things Brock offers when I am the tour guide.”

Luckily, on her visits home, Gittins has been able to review her talking points with a captive audience.

“I have practised my new Smart Start speeches on my cousin, and he is going to come here,” she said.

As she prepares to start her new role this summer, Gittins has focused on one point most of all.

“When I talked to friends from other schools they usually said their ‘university is great, but,’ and then made reference to something they thought could be better,” she said. “At Brock, almost everyone seems to say ‘Brock is great, because,’ and then describes all of the things they like. The positivity and inclusivity that this attitude shows was one of the main reasons I came here, and I can’t wait to share that with everyone this summer.”

Registration is now open for all three of Brock’s summer orientation programs — Smart Start, LEAP and BaseCamp. To learn more about each program or to register to participate, visit the Discover Brock website.

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