Orientation week in P.E.I. is back in full force following three years of pandemic protocols. But new students say their first school year isn't starting without challenges.
About 300 students participated at a kickoff event at UPEI Alumni Field on Saturday. More than 900 students have signed up for a series of in-person activities that will take place until next Sunday.
It's the first time since 2019 orientation is being held on campus after two years of online activities.
Inara Bhalesha and Nathan Lacroix, who are co-ordinators for the new-student orientation, say you can tell the difference.
"It's wonderful, it's thrilling, it's exciting," Bhalesha said. "Students haven't been out and about in the past three years and you can feel the energy."
Lacroix said the "primary aspect of university" is to get a degree.
"But, at the end of the day, we want to make friends with new people," he said.
This year, students will get the chance to participate in a trade fair, meet their professors and even play a dodgeball game against faculty.
There will also be a food drive and a 4K run in support of the UPEI Food Bank.
But while some new students are excited to participate in the celebrations, they say the beginning of the school year hasn't been without its challenges.
Haley Kennedy, a pre-vet biology student from Calgary, said she had a hard time finding housing.
"I'm on the wait-list for the residence," Kennedy said. "I actually lucked out with a family friend who's doing a favour and agreed to rent her house."
In August, UPEI officials asked students unable to secure a place to live this semester not to come to the university.
Kyra Brewster said she's grateful to have moved from Ontario to P.E.I. with her grandmother just a few months ago.
Brewster said she's not "necessarily happy" with COVID-19 protocols, but that they're preferable to online learning.
Masks will once again be mandatory in all indoor spaces this fall semester after the requirements were lifted during the summer.
Ken Tsukada, an arts student from Japan, said for now he just wants to take in the university experience and to meet new people.
"Different religions, different culture background. We don't care. Just talk," he said.
Classes are set to begin Wednesday for most students.