As Mary Immaculate College (MIC) prepares to welcome almost 1,000 new students to our campuses in Limerick and Thurles, we sat down with Dr Geraldine Brosnan, Director of Student Life at MIC, and Aisling Cusack, President of MISU, MIC’s Students’ Union, to chat all about what new students can expect from Orientation 2020.
So, what’s Orientation all about?
Geraldine: Orientation is all about helping students to prepare for college life and aims to make the transition to third-level as easy as possible for new students. It gives students a chance to learn about what to expect in their first year at College, as well as providing information on academic and personal supports. Most importantly, Orientation gives new students a chance to meet new friends and establish meaningful connections with the College and its processes.
Aisling: Orientation helps students feel excited about starting college for the first time and smooths the transition into campus life. We want to ensure all first years are comfortable and familiar with MIC before the semester starts on 28 September.
How will this year’s Orientation differ to previous years?
Geraldine: The only real difference between this year and previous years is that most aspects of Orientation will be delivered online through a Virtual Orientation for our new students at MIC Limerick. Because we have smaller numbers on our Thurles campus, Orientation for MIC Thurles students will take place on-campus as in previous years.
The schedule of events will be similar to previous years and will include a welcome from MIC’s President, Professor Eugene Wall, as well as talks from lecturers and an overview of the supports in place to assist students throughout the academic year. An additional and important part of this year’s Orientation will be our COVID-19 Induction to help ensure that we keep our students, staff and our communities in Limerick and Thurles safe as we return to campus.
If public health advice permits, students at MIC Limerick will also have the opportunity to have an on-campus orientation experience as ‘Welcome to Campus’ short visits are scheduled for all first-year groups on our Limerick campus during the week of 21 September.
Throughout the first semester, we will also be engaging with our new students and offering them support as they take the first steps on their third-level journey.
Aisling: During these ‘Welcome to Campus’ visits, new students will be given the opportunity to go on a tour of the campus. Our student guides will show our new students different parts of the College such as the location of faculty offices and student support services such as the Medical Centre, Academic Learning Centre, Chaplaincy, Counselling Service and more. This is definitely a favourite part of Orientation where new students can chat with current students and enjoy hearing the inside tips/tricks from someone who is currently studying at MIC.
At the end of their visit, they will get a chance to meet Laura (MISU Vice-President) and I – their SU representatives for this academic year. We will have a quick chat with them and brief them on what MISU do and how to sign up for Clubs and Socs, as well as upcoming campaigns and events. MISU will also be hosting a free online event for all first-year students on Thursday 24 September. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat (name: MaryISU) and Twitter for all our latest updates on Orientation 2020!
What supports are in place at MIC to assist students in their transition to third-level?
Geraldine: There is a range of supports which are all designed to assist students in their transition to third-level and throughout their programme at MIC. MISU provide great support for both academic and personal matters and we also have a huge range of support services, including the Access and Disability Office, the Academic Learning Centre, Chaplaincy, Counselling, and the Medical Centre, to name but a few. We also have academic modules such as Foundation Studies, which are specifically designed to support new students in their transition to third level.
Aisling: The Students’ Union is here to help all students for the duration of their college experience and we will help them along the way in any way we can. We represent the student body and advise on issues such as accommodation, social or personal problems, issues relating to college life, academic issues, and teaching practice. We also oversee the Class Rep system. There are very few issues, if any, that we have not come across over the years. So if they have a problem and don’t know who to ask, ask MISU. Laura and I will be your first point of contact and please remember, no question is a stupid question – we’ve all been there!
Our office is situated on the ground floor of the Tara Building beside the ATM and our door is always open to any student. We also have an office on our Thurles campus. And even when students are not on-campus, MISU will still be available to them virtually by email/phone/zoom and of course through our social media channels. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch – we are more than happy to help!
How can freshers make the most of their first year?
Aisling: I would definitely encourage all students to make the most of their time in MIC because the four years will be over before you know it! Get involved in MISU Clubs and Societies – join or even set up a club or society, play for our sports teams, take to the stage with MIDAS – the list is endless! During week 1 of the first semester (beginning 28 September), we will host our annual ‘Clubs and Socs Day’ where students will get the chance to sign up for any of our clubs and societies.
First year students will have the opportunity to become a Class Rep, as well as attend MISU events and take part in MISU campaigns and activities. Although we may have to run events and activities differently to how we normally would, getting involved is a great way to meet new people and make lifelong friendships.
What’s the one piece of advice you would give to first year students?
Geraldine: Enjoy every moment because the time absolutely flies by!
Aisling: Don’t be afraid to jump into new experiences. Like everything else in life, it is what you make of it. As I said, make the most of your time in MIC. People say that your college years are the best years of your life and, believe me, they are. Take the first step and don’t look back.
What’s the most important thing to take away from Orientation?
Geraldine: You will be taking in lots of new information throughout your Orientation programme so I would say the most important thing to take away from Orientation is not to worry if you don’t remember everything. We know that this is all new so please don’t be afraid to ask for help in the weeks and even years ahead!
Aisling: First and foremost is to enjoy the whole experience. Learn more about MIC, find out how to join in the College community, and much more. Explore and try new things, and of course take the opportunity to make lifelong friends. The amazing thing about MIC is that it is filled with friendly and approachable people, both staff and students alike. And over the coming weeks, all new students will get to know our amazing College, get to know each other and feel part of the college community here in MIC.
What advice do you have for students who may be feeling anxious about the year ahead?
Geraldine: First of all, feeling anxious is totally normal! You are starting a new journey which might be a little daunting but just know that you are not the only one feeling like this and there are lots of supports available for our students at MIC. So, if you are feeling overwhelmed don’t hesitate to get in touch with any member of the MIC team.
Aisling: It is totally normal for students to be nervous about the road that lies ahead. I assure you that the majority of your classmates are feeling the same way. I felt the exact same when I started in MIC five years ago – I was wondering how I would get to know people and what my classmates would be like. I thought there would be a feeling of isolation and a big change from secondary school. What if I get lost? What if I don’t fit in? All the usual questions! But I honestly have had a wonderful five years in MIC and I am sure you will too!
I know this has been a difficult and stressful time for many of you over the last few months given the unusual situation we find ourselves in. With these uncertain times we understand how stressful it can be for students, especially starting fresh in a new environment, but please know that MISU are here for you and we will make sure that your time at MIC is as stress free as possible.
For more about Orientation 2020 and the schedule of talks for each programme, go to www.mic.ul.ie/orientation.