Starting from scratch

I was first introduced to the concept of a niche in Grade 9 science.

Ecologically speaking, a niche is an organism’s role in the natural environment that makes use of its strengths. This definition can be adapted to and applied in our society as well, such as in the school environment.

A recent visit to my high school highlighted that niches are not permanent. It was the first time I had gone back since commencement in June. Walking down the seemingly smaller hallways and seeing familiar faces flooded me with memories. I created a niche for myself in my high school that doesn’t exist here at Queen’s.

Being in first year, I’m ultimately given a fresh start when it comes to who I am. This opportunity is good in that I can be whoever I want to be, regardless of my high school experience.

On the other hand, building a new identity—a new niche—from scratch isn’t easy when I already established one in high school.

Like most people who choose to attend Queen’s, I was very involved in high school, and that’s what I was known for. I dedicated a lot of effort in order to leave my mark on my high school through activities such as the school newspaper and peer tutoring, and I loved it. Interacting with other students to create something or to provide a service that benefited the school was a great feeling. For this reason, it’s frustrating to have to start over now—a sentiment I’m sure other first-years are also experiencing. I miss having my teachers know my name, being more than a number in a class of 400 and knowing where I belong within the school community.

I blame this sudden nostalgia on my high school visit, but I recognize it’s difficult not to express such emotions when you’re back in a familiar environment, talking to individuals who know you and who had a hand in creating your identity.

Catching up with my former teachers and schoolmates made me yearn for those high school days when I knew my role in the school environment. Getting to this comfortable point in Grade 12 wasn’t easy, but I often overlook this fact. If I think back to the beginning of Grade 9, I was in the same, overwhelming situation. Yet, I managed to build my niche by the end of high school.

I’m hoping for a similar outcome at Queen’s despite the great differences in population, responsibilities, and expectations between high school and university.

A comforting thought, however, is the many upper-years who have been successful in building their niches. If they can do it, why can’t I?

This is a question that I aim to answer in a few years. Until then, I’m still working on my niche.

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