How to Stay True to Yourself in First Year

It’s cliche, but first year of university is usually coined as the perfect opportunity to reinvent yourself. It’s seen as the way you can grow and change into who you are without the tired judgements of high school. As exciting as it all was, stepping into my empty residence room in Morris Hall on move in day, carrying with me only the things of MY choosing for the first time in what felt like so long, I soon discovered that with reinvention can come a certain sense of aimlessness, of uncertainty. It took awhile to find a happy balance between staying true to the person I knew I was, while also pushing myself out of my comfort zone to move closer to the person I wanted to become. So if, after all the excitement of the first few weeks, you end up finding yourself in this situation, here are a few ways you can help find that balance:

1) Find ways to continue doing the things you enjoy, and find people who support those hobbies.

Bring your instrument, or join one of the many clubs or sports teams (even if you don’t want to play varsity, there are plenty of intramurals available, or people just looking to play a quick game on Nixon Field). I personally have been playing the piano since I was a little girl, and the idea of not having that form of destress with me at all times worried me. I know this may not be feasible for everyone depending on your residence situation, but I brought a small electronic keyboard with me to have in my room. Just having that there was a huge comfort, a piece of home, something I could pull out if I was sad over a boy or feeling stressed during exam season (not going to lie, I may have played it a little TOO much during exam season). **A note for fellow pianists/musicians at Queen’s: Harrison LeCaine Hall on Bader Lane has a basement full of soundproof practice rooms containing pianos, which all students are free to use when not being used by Bachelor of Music students.

2) Own your decisions, and surround yourself with people who will respect them

As one example, I often choose to not drink alcohol, which can be a huge part of residence and university culture in general, and the vast majority of my friend group did. In the beginning I felt the need to make excuses or apologize about the fact that I was sober, especially when people gave me a hard time about it when we’d go out. Soon after though, I realized that the more confident I became in saying “No thanks, I’m good,” instead of “Um, sorry, I know this is lame, but…”, the less people said anything. The decisions you make about anything, but especially drinking or drugs, shouldn’t have to change your uni experience, or affect how much fun you have while you’re out. While it’s always a good idea to have new experiences, don’t apologize for the choices that you know work best for you.

3) Find your favourite spots on campus and in the city.

Familiarize yourself with some great study or hangout spots around your school that cater to what you enjoy. They can help you develop your new identity as a student and a local in the area. Get to know the bus system, the grocery stores, even the local bookstores and restaurants -- find the things YOU like so you feel more at home in a new place.

4) Most of all, put yourself out there.

Seek out people in residence, classes, or your program events. Talk to as many people as you can. Find friendships that help support the things and the values that are important to you, while also pushing you out of your comfort zone. After all, university is the best place to try new things.