Balancing books & fun

Experiences of a Queen’s Veteran

Queen’s Bands out on a stroll through campus. Just one of the myriad ways in which you can take part outside of class.
Queen’s Bands out on a stroll through campus. Just one of the myriad ways in which you can take part outside of class.
Photo: 
Ryan Graham, Arts ‘01, Sci ‘00
Ryan Graham, Arts ‘01, Sci ‘00

Witnessing the daily parade of young students tour the campus inspires me to share some of the lessons I’ve learned in my four years. I remind myself that four years is not a long time, and even a seventh-grader seems wise to a four–year–old. I also remind myself that dispensing advice was only popular when it was preceded by “wear sunscreen.” Yet as I enter into what seems to be the twilight of my career here at Queen’s, the urge to dole out counsel to new students is inescapable. Soon these young, impressionable apprentices will begin to etch out their own legacy, and paint their own memories on the canvas that will be their time at this institution.

Four years ago, I was excited to begin learning about everything university had to teach me. After surviving the drudgery of high school, I could finally dedicate my schooling to philosophy. I could learn about the most profound thoughts of the greatest thinkers. But even Descartes’ rationalism couldn’t stop me from turning nineteen and partying with the greatest drinkers. Midterms hit me like a bad hangover as I struggled to find a balance between good times and good marks, all the while forgetting about what made the university more than a school and this time in my life more than a phase.

Four years later, I am finishing off concurrent degrees in Life Science and Engineering. Yet despite the amount of classes I’ve had to take, the learning I’ve done outside the classroom has been the most useful and the more fulfilling

Extra–curricular activities are poorly named if students think that they are an optional component of a complete education. My involvement in student government has taught me the lessons that I value most. I’ve been learning applied science in the classroom and applied life outside it.

University life is about more than classes. It’s even about more than bars. The beauty of university life comes from the blended wonders of academia with the nuances of human nature. It’s an institution where you can learn about the techniques of contour integration and fall in love in the same day. It’s about battling with yourself in an arena of personal growth. The world is nothing more than a context in which you become yourself. If the world’s a stage, then there are two types of people — writers, who create the lines, and actors, the ones who repeat them. Consider university as the course that teaches you the power of writing and the drama of life. Don’t learn in class while failing to learn about yourself.

Over the last four years I’ve seen students become amazing people by taking advantage of what Queen’s has to offer. Others just got a degree. Expand your lifestyle before you repeat the mundane rants about PSYC 100, Marriott food, and drinking that seem to emanate from hordes of first–year students on a daily basis. Promise yourself you’ll do what it takes to add something amazing to your life. And no, I don’t mean drugs — I mean living through an intensity of different experiences. Get a job. Join a team. Volunteer. Live a new lifestyle. Just remember, you don’t become an interesting person by doing the same things as everybody else.

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Ryan Graham, Arts ‘01 Sci ‘00, is likely looking forward to the new school year. He is the current Communications Officer of the Alma Mater Society.

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