Finding community as BIPOC students at Queen’s

Equity organizations are essential for feelings of belonging

Image by: Curtis Heinzl
BIPOC students often struggle to adapt to Queen’s culture.

It somehow manages to hit you in the face and creep up on you all at once.

It includes the things that happen during Orientation when everyone is singing “Sweet Caroline” and you’ve never heard the song before. It’s at club meetings when Black medical students tell you there are five of them in a school of 400. It’s looking around at conferences or social settings and never seeing people who look like you.

The missed feeling of belonging—the idea this place was not built for you and the people here do not share your lived experiences—is as tangible on the first day you step onto campus as it is when you walk across the stage at graduation.

Authoring this article, we’re both people of colour coming from diverse communities, and many of the issues we discuss come from our own experiences and those of many other BIPOC students at Queen’s.

In the first year at university, many students struggle to adapt to the novelty of university life. For students of colour, this is compounded by being required to adapt to a predominantly white social context without a sense of camaraderie, community, and shared lived experiences.

These experiences shape us into who we are, dictate how we behave, and detail how we interact with our peers. They hold a unique value in their ability to create bonds based on mutual understandings of similar lifestyles, traditions, social inclinations, and obstacles.

As BIPOC Queen’s students, we’re surrounded by an absence of people we can relate to and make these types of connections with. If unaddressed, these feelings of estrangement can lead to negative effects on mental health, motivation, and academic performance.

This is when imposter syndrome sets in.

When the only people in positions of power and influence—the mentors and role models—rarely look like you, it challenges your perception of whether your contribution is worthwhile or whether you deserve to be in these spaces at all.

Queen’s is an institution commonly criticized for its lack of racial diversity. Unfortunately, these criticisms are not unfounded. While the scarcity of diversity is glaringly obvious just walking through campus, admissions data also indicates that representation amongst BIPOC students remains stagnant and low.

Ultimately, this reflects the ways that Black and Indigenous communities are too often structurally locked out of accessing higher education, and that the university has a reputation for being a challenging environment for BIPOC students, which makes it an unappealing choice for those attending university.

While this article may make the outlook for BIPOC students at Queen’s seem bleak, both of us have found success in discovering supportive communities we can relate to.

Much of this success starts with overcoming imposter syndrome and recognizing our own
unique strengths and perspectives, which are often direly needed in predominantly white spaces.

We were able to find that sense of belonging by joining organizations that emphasize and educate members on equity and diversity, like the Queen’s Debating Union and Yellow House.

Clubs that are centred on a shared identity—Queen’s Black Academic Society, Queen’s Black Premedical Association, Queen’s Black Fashion Association, and Smith Black Business Association—are also places to create meaningful bonds and garner that missing sense of safety and camaraderie.

To be BIPOC in institutions of higher education means your very existence challenges the status quo. It can be uncomfortable, but it’s also often inspiring to be able to contribute unique perspectives to spaces which have both missed and systematically denied them in the past.

We highly encourage finding supportive communities at Queen’s—or creating them yourself—as a way of settling in, finding community, and setting a foundation to pursue your goals.


clubs, community, Culture, diversity, representation

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to

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