Welcome to UBC: Tales from an (Old) Imagine UBC MUG Group Leader

This isn’t a topical story by any means – it’s just a random post, kind of like my one about the chick cupcakes.

I went to university at the University of British Columbia. I can remember landing at the Vancouver airport many moons ago and I can remember taking the shuttle from YVR to UBC (it’s where I made my first friend). I remember meeting my roommates and I remember the campus scavenger hunt put on my by residence.

But I have zero recollection of my own Imagine Day.

Imagine Day is (or at least was, when I was a student) UBC’s first-year orientation day. They market it as “the first day of class in cancelled!” and you get put into a group with other first year students in your faculty (your MUG group – My Undergraduate Group), which is lead by a second-year (or older) student. I think they show you around campus and I vaguely remember eating pizza, and then there is a pep rally which I don’t think I attended, though I’m not sure why I didn’t.

Despite the notable lack of impact my own Imagine Day had on me, I desperately wanted to be a MUG leader. I went through the highly interactive MUG leader interviews (in which we had to enthusiastically act out being a bread machine without using words) (that really happened) and was stoked when I was invited on board.

As a MUG leader, I had one primary goal: to convince all of my first years to join a sorority or fraternity. I didn’t even care if they joined my sorority – any one would do. I believed then (and, frankly, I still believe now) that Greek Life was the best thing about university life and that their experiences would be sorely lacking if they didn’t get to experience going Greek themselves.


I had to dig deep in the archives for this one

The day of Imagine UBC was a glorious sunny day. I donned my purple Faculty of Arts t-shirt (which was somewhat fraudulent, as I’d transferred into the Sauder School of Business), my silver Kappa Kappa Gamma lavalier, and a new pair of Sperry’s, fresh from Cape Cod. I carried my hand-drawn poster board over to the designated meeting area. My group was called Austen, as in Jane Austen. I happen to love Jane Austen, so I was cool with this.

One by one, my first years began to trickle in. They were quiet. Really, really quiet. They were probably all nervous as heck, but the awkwardness was palpable. Three of the twelve were pretty interactive, but the rest mostly stared blankly and gave me one word answers.

In our training, we had been instructed to start the morning off with everybody’s favourite (not so much) – an ice breaker. I pulled out the stops with my #1 favourite ice breaker: two truths and a lie. I remember one guy’s two truths were that he was a competitive golfer and he had six toes on one foot. I can’t remember the lie, but frankly, this guy was so interesting that he didn’t even need a lie. (He was one of the three talkative ones.)

I rallied the blank-faced troops and lead them towards a lecture hall, where we joined with several other Arts MUG groups. This was an “Ask the Professor” session, where a random prof in the faculty gave tips and answered questions. Ours was a one Professor Zeitlin, who happened to have taught my American Literature elective the previous year. He ended up being one of the best professors I had at UBC. After Professor Zeitlin doled out his advice, the MUG leaders got to go to the front and give their own tips. I, of course, gushed about Greek Life and told everyone they absolutely had to go out to recruitment.

Then it was time for the campus tour. In the shuffle out of the lecture hall, I lost one of my undergraduates (sorry!), but I gained another who had lost her group.

I’m sure the first thing that I asked her was whether or not she’d received her postcard from UBC Sororities.

The campus tour was a challenge. They had advised us to steer clear of places that were likely to be overly busy, like the Student Union Building. Wise words, but it seemed like the popular places were the most important places I should show the students – like, it’s generally more useful to know where the SUB is than where the UBC Farm is, right? So I took my group to the Student Union Building. I lost about three of them there – but at least they now knew where the SUB was…

My break-the-rules tour continued around campus – and the students dropped like flies. One or two said they had work and others had weird excuses. Some ghosted away. By the time we got to the pep rally, there were only two or three students left. It wasn’t the talkative ones, but I was pleased to note they’d started to come out of their shells. Post pep rally, they assured me they’d had a great day. Hey – 2 out of 12 ain’t bad, right? (Just kidding – it’s horrible.)

Despite my Greek Life propaganda – or perhaps directly because of it – only one of my twelve students went Greek. To be perfectly transparent, he was already living in the fraternity house (they were a smaller group and had a few extra rooms to rent), so I don’t even think I played a large role in the matter. But I’ll count it as a victory.

I would LOVE to hear any one of those twelve students’ takes on their Imagine Day experience. Maybe, like me, they remember nothing. I hope they all went on to have a great time at UBC.


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