Flying the nest with some help from SOAR
For the past three years, thousands of first-year students and their family members have visited campus in July for the Summer Orientation to Academics and Resources (SOAR). The program, which continues this week for engineering, commerce and nursing students, gives participants an additional opportunity to learn about academic expectations, resources, learning strategies and common student transition issues.
Lori Payne and her son Gavin Crowder (Artsci’18) attended SOAR on July 10. Senior Communications Officer Mark Kerr caught up with them at various times during the day to get their reaction to the program and their thoughts about Gavin's upcoming transition to university.
'I have to let my baby go'
Lori Payne is reminded of her son Gavin Crowder’s growing independence soon after they arrive at Summer Orientation to Academics and Resources (SOAR). Wanting to help her son, who is a graduate of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, Lori encourages Gavin to get course selection advice from a current Queen’s student who is also an IB grad.
But Gavin, still adjusting to his surroundings and waking up after an early morning car ride from Ottawa, isn’t ready to interact with the student quite yet.
“He has to do it on his own,” she says with a laugh, resisting the urge to push her son.
For thousands of parents who attend SOAR, the program is one of the first tentative steps toward negotiating new boundaries with their children. The process isn’t always easy, according to Lori.
“I am feeling a little bit of trepidation because I have to let my baby go,” she says. “But there is excitement as well. I want to learn what Queen’s is all about and see it from the inside.”
Similarly, Gavin is eager to learn more about university life during SOAR. He is familiar with Queen’s campus having previously lived in Kingston, but he still wants to attend SOAR to get specific information on topics such as course selection and registration.
“I figured I would come here where I can ask questions and it would clear up a lot of things for me.”
‘Nothing like this when I was going to university’
Lori and Gavin wander over to Ban Righ Hall for lunch after the morning sessions. “They were very informative. They kept me awake,” Lori jokes.
Even though the sessions kept her alert, they will help her sleep at night when Gavin is off at university. Hearing about the transition supports and activities offered at Queen’s, Lori is confident Gavin will get involved and not spend all of his time studying in his room or at the library.
With the dining hall lined with information tables representing various university services and student organizations, Lori marvels at the work Queen’s has done to ease the transition for incoming students.
“Thirty years ago there was nothing like this when I went to University of Ottawa and Western,” she says. “I think it’s a great idea. It’s scary when you go that first week and you don’t know anything about the school. To be able to come down and meet people and see the different buildings, that’s fantastic.”
After lunch, Lori and Gavin join a group heading over to Victoria Hall for a look inside residence rooms. Lori notes the size of the rooms but doesn't let it worry her.
“Two people in this room? Yeah, they can do it. They’re young; they will be fine.”
‘Students themselves are the best resources’
Shortly after SOAR ends, a smile beams across Gavin’s face, replacing the nervous expression he wore just a few hours earlier at the BioSciences Complex.
“I am really glad I came and my mom came too. I think she understands a lot more what’s going to happen next year, which is really good,” he says.
Gavin says he was surprised how open professors were during SOAR. He is also reassured knowing he can get help with essay writing, a self-admitted weakness, through Student Academic Success Services (SASS).
But he is most impressed by a panel discussion with upper-year students, a new addition to SOAR this year.
“Students themselves are the best resources. I got a lot of frank answers about different classes and things you can do to make your life easier in residence and classes.”
For Lori, SOAR helped her better understand how she can support her son during the transition to university.
“As I listened to a counsellor, I was thinking, ‘this is a day by day thing.’ Do I have some apprehension? Absolutely. But you reach a point where you know you have taught them well so it’s okay for them to go on, spread their wings, and do their thing.”