Sereana Naepi remembers the exact moment she was welcomed into Green College.
A new Resident Member from New Zealand, it was only her second day in Canada. As Sereana and her husband Jay walked up the steps to their studio room, they ran into a friendly and energetic Greenie who had lived at the College for two years.
She remembers their conversation vividly despite the jet lag.
"Hey! How's it going?" he asked. "A few of us are going to get brunch. Want to come?"
Many cups of coffee and pulled pork pancakes later, both Sereana and Jay felt right at home.
"People just welcomed us with open arms," she says. "And they continue to."
One year later, Sereana is gearing up to welcome a whole new group of Greenies with Victoria Cowan, a Resident Member who also arrived in August 2014. As co-chairs of the Welcome Committee, Sereana and Victoria are carrying on the College tradition of "Welcome Month"—a month full of events to welcome new residents.
For Victoria, a second-year Masters student in English, her College experience has come full circle.
"I'm so excited to give back by helping with Welcome Month because that, for me, is the epitome of what Green College is about: community, friendship, and sharing ideas."
Like Sereana, Victoria was initially nervous about moving to Vancouver. Originally from Saskatoon, this was her first time living away from home.
"It was a very intense year," she says. "But I felt very supported at Green College."
An interdisciplinary experience
That support inspired Victoria to become involved in residence life, from co-hosting the year's first coffee house, to joining the soccer team, to becoming involved in the Wellness Committee and spearheading a gender diversity workshop. She even became friends with the Writer-in-Residence, Governor's General Award-winning Erin Moure, and helped with her poetry readings and book launch at the College.
Sereana has also been an enthusiastic Resident Member in the community, contributing to the Admissions Committee and organizing a speaker series on Indigenous issues.
Whether philosophizing about dinosaurs over breakfast or learning how mathematics can be used to find a cure for cancer, both Sereana and Victoria stress that the College's interdisciplinary discussions are unlike anywhere else on campus.
"Being at Green has been so awesome. You're continually challenged to open your mind because this is an interdisciplinary space," Victoria says. "I'm making all of these new connections that I wouldn't have made if I hadn't been encouraged to think in those ways."
Sereana agrees, adding that the College allows young academics to have everyday discussions with influential scholars. As a PhD student in Educational Studies, she's had the chance to network with big names in her field.
"We get these amazing visiting [Educational Studies] academics," she says. "I would never get a chance to sit down and talk with [them] because when they are in the department, everyone wants to talk to them.
"But at breakfast at 7:30 in the morning?" she laughs. "I can talk to them about anything I want!"
Those unique conversations were a major first-year highlight for both Welcome co-chairs. They mention one standout moment in particular: when Steven Salaita, an influential American academic specializing in Indigenous peoples and colonialism, stayed at the College. After talking over dinner, they asked if he could do an intimate fireside chat on international Indigenous rights in the Piano Lounge.
"It was totally spontaneous," Sereana says. "He really enjoyed it and so did we, because you don't get the opportunity normally."
"It was one of those glorious moments when you [realize], 'This is why I do what I do,'" adds Victoria.
A spirited welcome
From brunch outings to thought-provoking speakers to even battling collegiately in the Wreck-Tower Cup against St. John's College, Sereana and Victoria hope to channel the same Green College spirit they experienced throughout their first year.
"We're really focusing on including all types of people, different personalities, and just having a diversity of events and programs that people feel like they can attend," Victoria says.
If you love nature and wildlife and want to explore what Vancouver has to offer, there's a bird watching tour and a hike. Have you always wanted to try salsa dancing? There's a night dedicated to learning the basics. Or maybe you want to dive into Vancouver's savoury Asian cuisine scene—you can join a restaurant crawl and sample different dishes.
There's also the annual grand finale of Welcome Month festivities, affectionately known as GreenFest. It's a jam-packed day of volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, and a free lunch all on the lush Green College grounds. The festivities are, of course, capped off with a party in the Common Kitchen.
No matter the event, the co-chairs want to cultivate the same sense of community they felt from the very first week at Green.
"Ideas, friendship, scholarship, and fun," Victoria says with a smile. "That's what it's all about."