Before starting his studies at Brock last fall, Liam Nielsen took a Leap of faith. He left his home in Nova Scotia a month early in hopes of getting acquainted with the University prior to classes getting underway.
The 19-year-old Stellarton native made the trip to St. Catharines in late July to take part in the Leap program and get first-hand experience living on campus.
Leap is one of three summer orientation programs — along with BaseCamp and Smart Start — offered by the University to simplify the transition process for first-year students as they begin their time at Brock.
Run by the University’s Student Life and Community Experience office, Leap gives participants the chance to spend a day or day and night as a Brock student before September arrives. The experiential focus of the program aims to equip new students with practical skills to navigate university life and be successful academically and socially.
Nielsen said the program offered him a glimpse into his fall living arrangements and studies, which was a huge benefit.
“Coming into first year, most people have not lived away from home,” he said. “Getting some extra reassurance from the program leaders and learning about the residence community, the staff and the available opportunities made the campus feel like a second home right away.”
Along with a stay in a residence room for those participating in the overnight program, students take part in a scavenger hunt at Brock’s main campus, a tour of downtown St. Catharines and a volunteer activity helping a local not-for-profit organization.
“It’s rewarding to get involved off campus and to see the downtown right away,” Nielsen said. “Volunteering with an organization like the Alzheimer Society of Niagara is a great way to feel like you are part of the Niagara community.”
Nielsen also used his tour downtown to adjust to another aspect of university life.
“My hometown doesn’t have public transit, so riding the bus for the first time was great,” he said. “It’s very cool to have access to all of the city, and the leaders showed us how to properly swipe our card to get around.”
Student Life Community Engagement Co-ordinator Megan Brown said the program offers the chance to make long-lasting connections before the formal start of the school year.
“As a past Leap participant, I appreciated the opportunity to connect with students in a smaller group, ask questions and learn more about the journey I was about to embark on,” she said. “During both my time as a student and now assisting with the co-ordination of the program, I’ve seen the positive impact it has on participants, who often become some of the most engaged and well-rounded members of the Brock community.”
Having now completed his first year, Nielsen’s journey has also come full circle. In addition to serving as a team member in the Smart Start program, he will be attending one of the Leap program’s evening activities to share his experiences with incoming students.
“It’s important to get out of your comfort zone and get involved as soon as possible,” he plans to tell the incoming batch of Badgers.
Nielsen hopes that even more students will sign up for the program, which has three available sessions in late July and early August.
“I would highly recommend it,” he said. “With overnight and daylong options, there is something for everyone. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and build connections both at the University and throughout Niagara.”
To learn more about Leap, visit the Student Life and Community Experience website.