“I came to Fleming because I decided to be a professional potter,” said Ursula Miller-Gareri, standing outside the Haliburton School of Art + Design’s pottery workshop.

“This was the best and safest way I could figure out how to run a ceramic studio without having to take a four-year degree,” she said.

Miller-Gareri was one of dozens of students who dropped by the college’s student services fair Sept. 13 as they settled into life in Haliburton.

Classes officially began after Labour Day. Students are enrolled in creative disciplines such as glassblowing, fibre arts and blacksmithing.

Miller-Gareri decided to pursue her dream of ceramic arts after the passing of a close friend.

“He was an amazing human being who was always striving to better himself. He was always very positive,” she said. “I figured out when he passed away that the best way I could honour him would be to do something amazing for myself. So, I decided to follow my dream of becoming a potter and come here.”

Returning student Zenon Bigg also dropped by the fair. He said he’s enjoyed living in Haliburton so far. Last semester, he said finding housing in the area was “a bit stressful… but I had it set up for this semester.”

Scott Michael Walling, who works at HSAD, was on hand to greet students and hand out swag.

“It’s really nice to watch the star-struck faces of everyone walking in and looking up to see the ceilings and the beautiful architecture… just realizing this is a small nice campus they can feel comfortable in.”

For the first time since 2019, the school is kicking off a semester without social distancing protocols, mandatory masking, or vaccination policies.

“We are excited to welcome new and returning students back in-person at all of our Fleming College campuses for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began,” said executive vice president of academic and student experience Sandra Dupret in an email. “The Haliburton School of Art + Design is returning to its creative and spirited environment and we are very pleased to feel the energy and excitement students bring while they are on campus and in the community.”