Student Chats: The Inside Scoop

Posted by Rebecca on August 5, 2015

A YU Perspective

Beginning your university adventure is a little different than preparing for your first day of high school. As you’ll come to realize, there are quite a few more moving parts involved. Fortunately, here to help put these parts together are your friendly neighborhood YU START leaders!

The YU START program, to which students of participating Faculties are invited, is one of York’s many resources to help ease the transition from high school to university for incoming Lions. As you may know, it enables you to enrol in your first-year classes and also offers learning modules on anything from academic success to wellness or getting involved  at York. Maybe best of all, YU START gives you the opportunity to talk to upper-year students (YU START leaders) in online chats about any questions you may have concerning school or social life before your official first day as a Lion on September 7, aka York Orientation Day. Don’t forget to register!

To give you a better idea about how the student chats work, my colleague Sam and I interviewed a few YU START leaders about their experiences.

Ola Agboola, 3rd year, Economics


R: What kinds of questions are coming through in the chat rooms, what kinds of discussions are you having there?

O: The questions are mainly about York Orientation Day. I was talking about Frosh Week [the entire first week of orientation]; a lot of people are excited about that. People are also talking about transportation, like how to get to campus, and about residence; some people have not gotten responses.

R: How has the experience of being a YU START leader been so far?

O: It’s a good experience; I’m talking to students. I understand it, coming into first year. I was so lost [when I first came to York]. I knew no one on campus. I’m an international student, from Nigeria. It’s really helpful, and for me to help them, it is really good.

Ola adds, “The chat rooms are a great way to talk to people in your program. Students should know that if they are in a big program, they are going to be in a big classroom, and through the student chat, you get to know people before school starts.”

So not only will the YU START leaders be able to give you important information you need or send you to the right resources but they’ll also help make you feel at home by engaging with you as any friend would. Just recently, Ola said, he had a long discussion with several incoming students about their favourite soccer and basketball teams!


Avital Shinder, 4th year, Kinesiology and Health Science


R: Do you have a favourite moment so far of being a YU START leader?

A: Probably when students come in asking for help with courses. It starts off as “Let’s add your courses,” and then it goes deeper into “What do I need to do to get in good with my professor? What do I need to do to be an A student? How do I manage my time?” When you’re with that student one on one, you can give them so much information, and you can tell that the student is grateful for you [sharing your knowledge].

Avital and Andriyha, who you’ll hear from below, are not just YU START leaders but also student advisers in the Faculty of Health, which means they have been trained in aspects of course selection that not all YU START leaders have. So while you can have discussions in the student chats about how best to manage workload or prepare for class, help with course selection is left to trained advisers.

R: What have you learned from the experience so far?

A: I definitely learned how to guide people into making their own decisions. Obviously, you can’t make the decision for them, because if you do tell them what to do, they’ll only resent you and have somebody to blame [if anything isn’t exactly as they imagined]. It’s all about guiding people to make their own decisions. I’ve learned [about] problem solving, about how to access campus resources. Some services I didn’t even know existed at York.

Avital adds, “If you’re scared to ask a question, you can always private-message the YU START leaders. You’re not losing anything by going to the chat. You’re only benefiting yourself.”

Andriyha Soans, 3rd year, Psychology


R: What made you decide to become a YU START leader?

A: My first year we had something similar to this [YU START], but it was on Facebook then; we didn’t have our own platform. It was nice getting to talk to upper-year students . . . . Last year I volunteered with the YU START Team [to help with orientation], and it was just such a great experience, so many new faces. They were all so excited! I just wanted to relive that again.

R: Can you describe the type of training you went through?

A: It was very holistic, because . . . it wasn’t just about how to give information but also about how to take care of yourself, so you’re able to give more. It did wonders for when we got to day one and [started] talking to the students.

Andriyha adds, “I think it’s great, and I think students should use it [the student chat]. I know there are groups on Facebook, but . . . the information on there might not always be accurate. When you post on a space like this [YU START], since it’s regulated by people like me, you know you’re getting the best possible information. And it’s fun!”

R: Why do you think students should be using these student chats?

A: Just because this entire thing is geared toward getting them set up. Getting them settled in. . . . We know the types of questions they will have. If you see it, it’s very modern. It was actually built on a mobile device, and then built up to a computer, so . . . it has plenty of apps, it’s entertaining, it’s colorful. . . . We’ve done everything to make it as least boring as possible. It’s really helpful for international students too. Because they’re not here yet, they probably haven’t had a chance to see the campus, and so for them to feel integrated already, I think YU START and the chat rooms help a lot.”

YU START graphic depiction in red boxes of steps to Orientation

So there you have it. Have your questions answered, take advantage of upper-year mentors, and meet future classmates. It’s not a bad way to begin your first year! For all you visual learners, but sure to check out this really informative video detailing the ins and outs of YU START. If that doesn’t suffice, head on over YU START’s official page for more information. Happy chatting!

Have you used the chat rooms so far? Tell us what you think of the experience. Leave a comment or tweet us at @yorkustudents!


Note: This post was slightly updated on August 4, 2016.


Rebecca M. is a third-year English major. She no longer blogs regularly for the YU Blog but may post on occasion as a guest-blogger.

See other posts by Rebecca

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