If you've lived in Montreal long enough, you know the end of August and beginning of September usually mean seeing groups of university students in colourful t-shirts marching through the streets, as they chant, drink and party — in other words, it's frosh season. But what the heck does freshman orientation look like during an unprecedented global pandemic?
Not only does COVID-19 have an impact on organizers, leaders and participants (aka froshies), it also affects each and every Montrealer.
Will frosh spark a new wave of coronavirus cases? Will the sounds of songs and cheers be audible through our open windows, distracting us from our work-from-home routines? Will there be puke in the bushes and bars packed to capacity? Do we even dare venture to a bar these days?
For those of us entering university or who have friends and family members in their first year, how will this year's experience compare to others?
We asked key players at Montreal universities what to expect from the 2020 remix.
Picture "a live-stream of a virtual concert as well as game nights, at-home workouts, talent shows, cooking challenges, [and] online escape rooms," said Ashley Schroeders, lead organizer of frosh at McGill.
Concordia's iFrosh, run by the Arts & Science Federation of Associations (ASFA), has a schedule of events that includes a murder mystery as well as a game show via Zoom — both of which use professional actors for dramatic effect.
Victoria Videira, ASFA's frosh coordinator, told MTL Blog the only activity that isn't digital is a scavenger hunt.
"It's all outdoors so people can do it individually," she explained.
Since campuses are closed for the fall semester, froshies may be participating from all over the world and in different time zones.
Videira said they addressed this by running programs all day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
There's also no pick-up for merchandise this year.
"Everything is shipped to students. That way we minimize contact," said Videira.
What do frosh leaders think?
"At first it was kind of a bummer," said Luca Manolache, a third-year aerospace engineering student and frosh leader for the Engineering & Computer Science Association (ECA) at Concordia's Frosh of Mythology.
"But now I'm excited because . . . every single year it's kind of the same events, which are really cool, but this year it's going to be really unique due to the 2020 circumstances."
What do froshies think?
"It is still a way to meet people," said Angelica Voutsinas, who's starting her first year of political science at McGill.
"Considering classes are going to be online and other events are going to be online, I feel like as many opportunities as I can get to meet fellow students . . . I want to jump at that."
Louis Piette, an incoming McGill English literature major, said he's skipping it.
"I felt like it didn't go with my expectation of what frosh would be like, and just being in my living room on my computer didn't feel very exciting," he said.
Will students still throw large parties in-person?
Organizers at both universities stressed they discourage parties and all in-person gatherings that do not comply with government and university regulations.
But froshies say that might not be enough to dissuade their peers.
"I think sadly there still will be parties, but I hope people will be careful," said Piette.
Voutsinas agreed: "I think that's definitely going to happen . . . My philosophy is to avoid those types of people."