What I’ve learned from Queen’s

Five years later, I’ll never forget about the people and memories that make this school great

Max Garcia said Queen’s taught him more than he could ever imagine.
Max Garcia said Queen’s taught him more than he could ever imagine.

If you could tell yourself something before going into your last year of undergrad at Queen’s, what would it be?

This is a question that I’ve been grappling with throughout my summer in Kingston. As I’m going into my fifth year at Queen’s, I’m beginning to realize the time I thought I had to value moments, people and things, is slowly slipping away. 

After visiting my brother and his two other house mates in Toronto, I asked them this same question. Reminiscing about meeting each other when they were students at Queen’s, they all answered the same thing — their time spent together on this campus. 

As a result of this conversation, I wrote a blog post on Medium called In Perspective. In it, I made a pledge to myself before entering my last summer and school year as an undergrad at Queen’s — to value and cherish the moments spent with friends, the things I learned from them and how easy it was to see them. 

I’m not going to lie, when I moved into the fourth floor of Brockington House in September of 2013 I didn’t have this perspective. It wasn’t until I became a residence don in my third year that I started to formulate it. As I approached that year as a don, I had one goal in mind: help students accomplish a successful transition from high school to university. I thought my students were going to learn a lot from me. 

I ended up learning more from them. 

I learned from the set of “firsts” that my students had during the year. First time living away from home, having unlimited access to chocolate milk during meals and the first time they signed a house lease were some of these experiences that first came to mind. 

Although I had already experienced all of those “firsts”, it wasn’t until I saw it through the eyes of my students that I began to appreciate how important they all were. By watching them grow throughout the year, my students helped me treasure these small moments as something part of a bigger picture — but I’ll get to that later. 

My time as a don helped me appreciate the “firsts” that students have when they begin their university experience. 

During my time in student government, first as the President of the Computing Students’ Association and then as the Director of Media Services for the AMS, I began to admire the initiative, determination and passion that Queen’s students give to everything they do. 

Through my own experience and by watching those who came before me, I learned that a good leader makes plans for one year, while a great leader makes plans for the years to come. 

A great leader is not discouraged when they realize they might not be able to see the fruition of their plans and is glad that someone will benefit from them sometime down the road. 

Now in my final summer in Kingston as the president of the Queen’s Student Alumni Association, I’ve been able to gain a different perspective than what students initially get on their first walkthrough of Queen’s. Being present at all class of 2017 graduations, I’ve learned what it means for someone to give closure to a very important chapter of their lives and how hard it can be to move on from a place that has helped so many people grow. 

It has showed me the importance of giving back to a place that has given so much to those who have walked through its limestone campus. 

Demonstrating that through a combination of giving your unique talents, supporting Queen’s charitable initiatives and volunteering time, these different forms of philanthropy can help make a difference in someone’s university experience. One’s connection and involvement with Queen’s doesn’t have to end after graduation. 

This school year, I am fortunate to be able to do something that I feel very passionate about: help students in their transitions. 

Once again as a residence don, I will help students have a successful transition from high school to university. 

As the QSAA president, on the other hand, I will help students have a successful transition into the alumni world. While both transitions are different, I will approach them with one common theme that I like to call ABG. Always Be Grateful – for what you had in the past, what you have right now  and what you will have in the future. 

For those who are just starting your journey at Queen’s: embrace the firsts. 

For those who are moving into your upper years: cherish and do things that you love. Aspire to inspire those who are around you and those who will come after you. 

Finally, for those who are entering their last year as students here: value the moments spent with friends, the things you have learned from them and above all, how easy it has been to see them on a daily basis. 

The interactions that I’ve had with my brother, his housemates, the students I donned, my friends, and other alumni, have taught me one important lesson: people will come and go from Queen’s, but Queen’s will always stay inside a Gael’s Tricolour heart. 

Max is a fifth-year Computer Science major and the Queen’s Student Alumni Association President. 

 

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