Alumni spotlight: Queen’s connections in Canada’s capital

The sense of camaraderie that comes with being a student at Queen’s is so strong that “classmate” just doesn’t quite cover it — we often refer to being a part of the “Queen’s family”.

It can be hard to get a firsthand account of what it’s really like to leave Queen’s until you have to do so yourself.

This past Homecoming, Colin McLeod, ArtSci ’09, a trade policy officer, sat down to discuss what it was like to leave Queen’s, what the community has done for him in the last five years and how current students should approach the next few years.

What did you study here at Queen’s?

My major was political studies. My minor was in biology.

What are you doing now?

I work for the department of foreign affairs, trade and development for the Government of Canada.

What were you involved with at school in terms of extra-curriculars?

The top one is that I was the president of the Queen’s Student Alumni Association and then also Head Manager of Walkhome. It was a very diverse experience.

When you look back on your time at Queen’s, are those extra-curriculars what stands out the most for you?

They really are. I think … at Queen’s, half of it is learning and then the other half is the extra-curriculars, hanging out with friends and really I think that helps so much.

What were things like when you first left Queen’s? What was that experience like?

Once I left Queen’s, I moved to Ottawa and I very much still missed Queen’s, but you tend to stay in touch with a lot of your Queen’s friends and we kind of formed our own student ghetto in downtown Ottawa. All our friends lived within 10 minutes of each other downtown. While I was sad to leave Queens, I think it prepared me well. You meet so many friends that you keep for a lifetime and you stay connected and have that same sort of togetherness that you had while you were at Queen’s.

Do you have any stories that you’d like to share or any particular memories of Homecoming as a student?

I think some of my favourite memories are probably the football games and the alumni parade … It’s one of the few times the game is fully sold out and everyone’s cheering and the alumni are coming around and people are just going crazy. And I think that’s something I look forward to … being reversed roles this weekend is doing that parade around the field and seeing the students so excited.

How has Queen’s impacted your post-graduate experience? Do you think it makes a difference having gone to Queen’s rather than another school?

I think there’s a couple aspects of that. The most immediate was the Queen’s connection, the networking. The different places I’ve worked in Ottawa I’ve always run into people that went to Queen’s. I have interviews, coffee meetings with people who went to Queen’s and I think that’s an automatic connection and fellow alumni are always willing to meet and help out new grads, so that helped almost instantly. And there’s also the perception of Queen’s as well. So you tell people you went to Queen’s, people go, “Oh, you went to Queen’s?” and are impressed.

Something that we hear a lot as arts majors is that once you graduate, it’s almost impossible to find work. Has that been your experience?

I think that it’s definitely not easy, but at the same time if you are able to kind of keep in touch with those Queen’s connections either at the school or with people you meet in the community, I think that will go a long way to help, even this network … of like 130,000 Queen’s [alumni] and everyone’s kind of looking out for each other. So while it was definitely difficult and it took me a little while to get to where I am now, I think I benefitted from having that strong alumni network.

Do you have any advice to students who are still here?

First of all, when you’re at Queen’s, take advantage of it as much as you can. Go to those football games, to the Homecoming, get involved, volunteer or work for the AMS, those sorts of things. So really make the most of your Queen’s experience while you’re there. The second piece of advice would be once you graduate Queen’s to keep that connection up because everyone will have different experiences afterwards and you may find that connection helps you immediately or 10 years down the road. But it’s a community that’s always going to be there and be supportive of you.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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