Editor's note: The following answers are based on each contributor’s own personal experiences with the particular Frosh each participated in. Our writers took part in Arts, Rad, Outdoor, and Fish Frosh. Each explores the value of Frosh in terms of building relationships, foundations for life at McGill, and discovering the broader Montreal community.
Every entering McGill student has heard that frosh is the greatest week of university. With this, there comes a lot of pressure to fulfill such high expectations: Frosh can seem like an essential way to make friends in first-year and to explore the city. Feeling this pressure myself, I signed up for Fish Frosh and gave it a shot; however, I quickly realized that participating in Frosh wasn’t something I could force myself into. I only attended frosh for one day—at no fault of the Frosh itself—and instead decided to spend the rest of the week exploring Montreal with a few friends who felt similarly ambivalent towards the lack of freedom that Frosh offers.
The next day, some friends and I took the Metro to the end of the Green line, stopping at restaurants and shops along the way. During Faculty Froshes, a lot of time is spent going on pub crawls and partying at clubs which while fun for many is not the most effective way to discover the city of Montreal. With no set events, we had the freedom to hike to the top of Mount Royal, and then went on to buy poutine and ice cream in the Old Port. We still stayed out until 3 a.m., but it was on our own terms. As a result, we saw parts of the city and had experiences we otherwise would have yet to discover.
In terms of making friends, not doing Frosh acted as its own bond. I met people who shared the similar interests to mine; in a large Frosh group, there is no such guarantee. My friends and I recognized the value of venturing into the city without a plan, as opposed to following the structure and organization of mainstream Frosh. Doing so with such a small group made all of our adventures much more intimate: Instead of spending little time with many people we got to know each other on a deeper level.
It may seem intimidating to take on Orientation Week alone, but Frosh isn’t necessarily for everyone. Deviating from the typical Frosh experience can still offer opportunities for those seeking freedom, meaningful friendships, and personalized adventures.
Senses of community, identity, and belonging are crucial in a big school like McGill. The central idea of Frosh is to bring new students together under events that help them to get to know one another. Ideally, it should introduce terrified first-years to a community they need and can identify with. I came into Orientation Week knowing that I was not prepared for the amount of drinking that appeared to be the Faculty Frosh prerogative. Indeed, many of my friends in residence complained that being drunk all the time actually hindered the process of making friends. Thus, Rad Frosh, organized and funded through McGill’s Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG)—whose aim is to provide a ‘radical’ alternative to regular orientation activities by means of social-justice based programming—was a great alternative.
For me, Rad Frosh was an extremely effective start to life at McGill because it introduced me to precisely the parts of McGill where I would like to belong. Be it a persons of colour (POC)-only space, or an Anarchist bookstore, Rad Frosh gave me access to resources that suit my needs. The parts of McGill and Montreal I saw through Rad Frosh were parts that the school doesn’t necessarily advertise: We visited the workers’ unions, and learned about both the Divest McGill and Demilitarize McGill groups. We learned about guerilla gardening and gentrification in the Milton-Parc and St Henri communities.
There were both drinking and non-drinking events, but the latter were especially effective because they were carefully organized and engaging. They were primarily workshops in which participants sat with fellow socially-conscious students and discussed politically charged topics. In this way, we got to know each other on deeper levels, which helps in fostering lasting friendships. At events like the Open Mic, we were given a platform to share our creative talents and personal stories through music and poetry, and thus connect with others. Finally, we went to our fair share of bars and had amazing dance parties to boot.
On top of being an introduction to McGill and its surroundings, Rad Frosh introduced me to like-minded individuals who I believe will become lasting friends. It was never about the Anarchist bookstore—which I will definitely be revisiting—but the people I’ll visit it with.
I had no idea what a Frosh was until I saw it on the McGill orientation website. As an exchange student from Hong Kong, I’d never been to a Frosh in my first year, and did not want to miss out on this traditional welcoming event at McGill. After considerable deliberation over the many options, I went with Fish Frosh, a dry Frosh hosted by four McGill Christian groups. The reason I chose Fish Frosh was not only because I wanted to make new friends, but because I wanted to explore the city of Montreal and not be exhausted after five days of partying. As an added bonus, it was also the cheapest Frosh. It didn’t bother me too much that I wasn’t Christian myself, as Fish Frosh is open to all beliefs. Now that Frosh Week is done with, it’s safe to say that I enjoyed every bit of it, and have no regrets regarding my decision.
Through Frosh, I was able to visit several iconic parts of Montreal with a bunch of friends, guided by our leaders. The Biodome, Mont-Royal lookout, Old Port, and Saint-Joseph’s Oratory were some of the many locations we spent time at. We also had some amazing food throughout—some traditional Quebecois dishes, and some homemade—all of which eased me into the amazing cultural and culinary diversity of the city. Fish Frosh was also a great opportunity for Christian freshmen at McGill to get to know what the McGill Christian community had to offer. That being said, I was openly welcomed and respected as a non-Christian, and never felt out of place.
Spending five days with my Fish Frosh group and leaders meant one thing: I met new friends, regardless of cultural backgrounds, beliefs, or interests. Breaking into the social life of a university as big as McGill—especially as an exchange student—can be challenging. Through Frosh, I made friendships and memories that will not be soon forgotten. I wouldn’t have started my time here at McGill any other way.
Faculty froshes are a melting pot—a way of attempting to blend first-years together over vague commonalities, such as their faculty and whether they are 18 years old or not. Yet despite the superficiality of these categories, many people manage to find those of a like mind and spirit. In my experience in Arts Frosh, I was able to break the confines of the group and meet interesting people that were not limited to my faculty, residence, or interests. Conversations that started through passing comments spiralled into ones of politics, music, and much more. Even at the mass events—the Ty Dolla $ign concert, Boat Cruise, and various clubs—people bonded over wanting to have fun and meet new people.
While there was plenty of alcohol consumed at Arts Frosh, not every event was exclusively intended for drinking. I did not witness any of the horror stories that are common popular conceptions of Frosh, such as people getting their stomachs pumped or being robbed late at night. With their watchful and responsible eyes everywhere, my Frosh leaders made sure that things had an element of restraint and that substance use was at a moderate level.
The safe and calm atmosphere surprised me due to my prior perceptions of what Frosh would be like. I had formerly seen it as just a cycle of bland events with incessant drinking and vapid partying, yet I realized it was much more. For many, Frosh is the first break from the oversight of parents, as well as a true experience of responsibility and adulthood. It is absent from any authoritarian figures, there are no binding social norms to follow, and ease of access to alcohol is a first for most—including myself. Yet even with these temptations, Frosh was still a fun, safe experience that felt inclusive, enjoyable, and social.
Canoe Frosh, one of the six Outdoor Frosh options run by the McGill Outdoors Club, was an amazing bonding experience because of our shared time in the wilderness: We survived very long portages, cooked meals, washed dishes in the lake, pitched tents, played strange bonding games, jumped off cliffs, climbed waterfalls, and looked up at a sky full of stars. All of these added to the sense of trust and companionship that developed during my time in Frosh.
Early Saturday morning, we loaded the bus on our way to Lac Wapizagonke, where we began our life at McGill. On the second day, we paddled to the Lac Wapizagonke Waterfall, where we got to help each other cross the rushing water and then share in the spectacular view from the top. Crossing the waterfall was an intense bonding and trust exercise, as we had to trust in ourselves and in our new friends.
Cliff jumping was also very exciting, especially for those of us who had never done it before. Once again, this was a massive trust exercise, as we were essentially jumping off of a 20 foot cliff and free falling into the water.
Canoe frosh was a very exciting, yet relaxing trip, in which I made strong friendships with some wickedly cool people, rather than just going clubbing every night. This made my first week at McGill so incredibly special.