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Are Canadian universities 'holding puppies' for prospective students'

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'Holding a Puppy' is defined by the Urban Dictionary as: "when someone nefarious does something shamelessly obvious to improve their image."

I, and I expect many other high school students, have little to no experience with the post-secondary education system or standards. As a result we are easily molded and poked and prodded in every which direction. Different people paint pictures both bright and bleak, with the result being blurry. The result isn't much help in navigating the labyrinth of choices that post-secondary education presents.

Carleton University, Ottawa. When my friend explained that he was going up to visit the campus. I jumped up and requested that I also be able to come. It was a bit rude, and almost unthinking, but highly beneficial.

Two weeks later, we were off. We arrived at the hotel, and passed out, and made the short drive to the campus the next morning.

Our, or at least my expectations were mixed. I had heard so much positive and negative, that I really wasn't sure what to expect.

We were instructed to attend an 8:30 a.m. lecture in Carleton's largest lecture hall, which has a capacity of 400. Our classmates took up less than half of that. The seats were comfortable, almost too much so after a night of little sleep. It was easy to see why nearly every student held a cup of Tim Hortons Coffee.

Our speaker turned out to be a good fellow from an international human rights watchdog organization, Amnesty International. The topic was varied ranging from how they use their relationship with the media to report injustices, to applying pressure on infringing body through media. It was a highly informative lecture, although repetition at times induced a dry feeling.

No ‘puppies’ were seen at this point. The lecture, at least, lived up to expectations for me set by those who had braved university in the years previous, because that is what they are – other people's ideas forced upon us.

Sometimes teachers throw the old ‘this homework is nothing compared to university’ or ‘universities are mean and nasty places where leniency and mercy are never shown, and professors are robotic, emotionless creatures intent on forcing you to your knees’ bones out for students to fear and tremble at.

For me, the experience was the same as elementary school teachers trying the same tricks during the approach of the high school transition. They were correct, expectations were higher and deadlines were enforced with less leniency. So is it true, are the universities ‘holding puppies’ for us?

In my experience, university students paint a much more attractive picture of professors, in which they appear to show emotion and mercy. So which do I believe?

I found the experience at Carleton to be closer to the more cheery picture and I sincerely hope that he was not merely 'holding a puppy'. The professor in the lecture hall wore a sweater vest, and I'm pretty sure that means that he was indeed human, and not a robot in disguise. However, Stephen Harper wore a similar garment of the colour blue.

After the lecture we embarked on a little jaunt around campus in our search for Robertson Hall, the location of the admissions office and the source of free food. The university offered those attending a tour free meals at their buffet style cafeteria, touted as the second largest self-serve post-secondary cafeteria in Ontario, a mouthful to be sure.

I must admit, upon exiting the building in which our lecture took place we were lost. We walked a little, stopped a lot, and finally discovered that every 25 metres or so was a map. We felt decidedly unintelligent at this point. We nonchalantly sauntered over to the map, in an effort to look as inconspicuous as possible. I suppose my friend's bright bluish sweater may have set off alarms, but in the least case it turned out that we were glaringly obviously lost. A good student won brownie points for campus friendliness as he directed us to the proper building. The cynical side of me wanted to identify this man as part of the ‘puppy’ scheme, but the reasonable side of me accepted the kindness with gratitude.

Upon entrance to Robertson Hall, neither myself, nor my Danish companion were highly impressed. The building was, in short, a far cry from the attractive lecture hall. I suppose we could chalk this up the fact that it was undergoing renovation, but, again, my cynical side was sending ‘puppy’ alarms wailing through my mind.

The free food at the cafeteria was good, and so much – in such a wide variety – was even better. Much food was consumed. It was, however, decidedly difficult to locate eating utensils. Who would eat without utensils? We were saved, however, by another kind student.

The 'journalism tour' was the next item on the itinerary. In fact, it was only due to good fortune and the work of my host family that I was able to attend a lecture, and later speak at length with a professor from the journalism faculty. This was greatly appreciated.

The official tour started off at Robertson Hall, the unimpressive building. Around the campus, we saw the sports facilities, which, to me, a high school age male, were impressive and desirable characteristics of the campus. We walked past the medical office/clinic, numerous other buildings. An often-mentioned and highly noticeable fact was there were five Tim Hortons on campus. The journalism faculty building, however, was the only one with a full service Tim Hortons. This explained the prevalence of Tim Hortons in the previously attended lecture.

The Journalism Faculty Building was beautiful. I was impressed. It was located on the river, and plenty of windows ensured the open concept was well lit. A concrete patio overlooking the Rideau River promised a calm study atmosphere, and a ‘living wall’ of plant life exuded almost a sort of opulence.

We made our way through the levels of the building, viewing the editing suites, television equipment, the various offices and work rooms, and finally the Rogers Resource Centre. It contained archives of periodicals and newspapers. I love reading the news, and I suppose writing news, so this place was pretty enjoyable.

Our tour of the university finished off with an interview with a professor who was highly knowledgeable and informative about the world of journalism. He had passion for what he did. I think that was the clincher for me. He was indeed human. And he was not just ‘holding a puppy.’

According to a study carried out by the University of Melbourne, Canada’s higher education system ranks third on the world stage. Canadian universities are quality, their standards high. The stress associated with university selection can be minimized with the advice gleaned at Glendale High School: “Visit the campus and go where you think you will be happy.”

Never mind the questions of class size, professor quality, and crazy statistics that are piled on top of you, I think if you find a university attractive at first glance, it is because they just are. They don’t need ‘puppies.’

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