McMaster students getting to know about Hamilton

This article was originally published in CBC Hamilton, Aug. 26, 2012

Life beyond McMaster and Westdale is a mystery for many who attend university in Hamilton.

But that is changing with the help of an initiative just launched by Mac.

On Friday, more than 117 students spent the evening exploring the core.

And once outside the bubble, they discovered things about the city they didn’t know.

Third year Health Sciences student, Lindy Luo, was one of them.

“It was my first time in two years taking a casual stroll through downtown Hamilton,” said Luo, as she walked along James Street North while on a tour of downtown Hamilton.

Hamilton Experience Night was intended to help students get to know the city better and experience Hamilton culture firsthand.

The event was part of two weeks of training to prepare community advisors to mentor students living in residence.

This was the first time McMaster’s residence life committee made a deliberate attempt to connect its community advisors with the core.

Brandon Smith, manager of student leadership and learning at residence life, thought it was important for community advisors to gain exposure to the city through the event.

“Our students and residence life staff are not only members of the residence and Mac communities, but the Hamilton community as well. Through experiential learning, our community advisors were able to actually see what they were hearing about,” Smith said in an email.

The night included a panel discussion at city hall, where students discussed how they could get involved in the community.

Luo has volunteered outside of McMaster at Inasmuch Women’s Shelter, Beasley Community Centre, and St. Peter’s Hospital, but admitted that much of Hamilton is still unknown to her.

“The panel inspired in me a desire to be adventurous in Hamilton,” said Luo, describing the cultural and culinary locales downtown.

“I liked it when the general (often negative) attitudes towards downtown Hamilton were addressed, because this allows us to be more open about this city I call home for the majority of the year,” Luo said in an email.

Calling herself a “proud Hamiltonian transplant,” Mary Koziol, an assistant to McMaster president Patrick Deane, thought the group was keen to engage with the city.

“There was a genuine curiosity about Hamilton accompanied by an uncertainty of how or where to begin,” said Koziol in an email.

She sees community advisors as “gatekeepers” between first year students and Hamilton’s communities.

“I saw a lot of individuals committed to undertaking their own relationship with the city, as well as inspiring their students to do the same,” said Koziol.

Hoping to organize more events with a similar vision to connect McMaster and the city, Koziol will be partnering with Open Streets Hamilton to host the pedestrian event Sept. 23.

For the first time, Open Streets Hamilton will include McMaster and Westdale.

You can participate in Open Streets Hamilton: McMaster Edition as a volunteer or sponsor.