If my little sister would listen, these are all the things I would tell her that I wish I knew when I was in first year.
I guess any student going into first year university in 2020 will inevitably have a very different experience than I did due to—dare I even say the word—Covid. Nonetheless, first year university was a pivotal time in my adolescence and, through a lot of reflection on my year in residence and my first time living away from home, I have realized a few things I wish I could have told my first year self.
The number one piece of advice I wish I’d followed is to get involved in the school community as soon as you can. Queen’s has what feels like thousands of clubs which, to me, was the most intimidating thing ever. There are tons of applications and interviews and I thought it was all totally out of my league. I waited until the end of my second year to finally apply to clubs, and, once I did, I immediately wished I’d known in first year that it actually isn’t that scary. In reality, clubs are made by students for students, providing so many opportunities to meet people and make new friends. I’d recommend checking out the Queen’s Facebook groups because students are always posting and promoting their clubs.
The people you meet during orientation week are probably not gonna be your best friends! I remember meeting the people in my orientation group and thinking, ‘okay, I guess this is my friend group now.’ Little did I know, I would never see any of those people again after the first week. This experience will definitely be different for the freshmen of 2020 since O-week isn’t in person, but just remember that even though the first people you find at university may seem like the be all and end all of friends, they’re not! Don't shy away from spending time with new people because one of the best parts about University is that literally everyone wants to make new friends. Keep an open mind all throughout first year because you never know where you’re going to meet your closest friends.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being homesick. Looking back on my first year, there were so many people around me who seemed to absolutely love living in residence without missing home at all. It was super alienating to think I was the only one missing living in my parents’ house where everything is comfortable and familiar. As it turns out, most of the people around me were feeling the exact same way, they were just too afraid to talk about it. No matter how ready you are to move out, or how much fun you’re having at University, it is so, totally, completely normal to miss home. Living on your own for the first time is a huge milestone and everyone copes with change differently. The good news is that you eventually find a place in your new community and realize what all the hype around living on your own is about. Soon enough you can’t imagine going back to how life was before you had all this independence.
There are a million things I wish I could tell myself as a first year, but the number one thing would be that no matter how you’re feeling, it’s going to get better. Even better than you think. There is something for everyone in University, and eventually everyone finds their place.