Words of wisdom from a Queen’s veteran

Ahmed Kayssi, in his debut column, helps to prepare frosh for the ‘incredible journey’ they are about to begin

Credit: 
Illustration by Dave Lee
Ahmed Kayssi
Ahmed Kayssi

a r g u e n d o

I remember feeling overwhelmed when I first came to Queen’s.

I had moved here from another continent and was having to deal with the double culture shock of becoming a university student and living in Canada.

I settled on the French floor in Victoria Hall with 40 other students, most of whom had not chosen to be on the floor, so the promised bilingual ambience never really materialized.

The campus seemed scattered, and sitting in a lecture hall with 400 strange faces was really weird.

A friend soon got me involved in student government in residence. For the rest of the year, that was my extracurricular activity—I even skipped the odd lecture or tutorial because of my commitment.

I began to learn how to work in a team, communicate with different personality types and contribute when everyone around me seemed so much smarter.

The next few years are probably going to be the most influential in your life. Queen’s will become your second home, your stepping stone to the real world after university and the place where your outlook on the world will hopefully mature and be challenged.

You’re going to hear a lot of exciting speeches about Queen’s when you get here. You’re going to hear about the history of this place, its traditions, and, if you’re still awake, you’ll hear about the incredible things that previous students have done. You will also be reminded of the great debt that we owe to our communities and the taxpayers who pay for a great chunk of our education.

According to the last national census conducted by Statistics Canada in 2001, approximately 15 per cent of Canadians have gone to university, but continue to subsidize Queen’s because they believe in our potential to serve this country when the time comes.

Eventually, you will forget all the welcoming speeches—hopefully within the hour. You will start to bond with the strangers around you, whether in residence or in your orientation group, and forge lasting bonds that will long outlive your time at Queen’s.

You will also be expected to make choices—choices about which classes to take, how much to spend on liquor and how to allocate your free time. These choices will define your university experience because, as you will soon find out, there is far too much to do and very little time to do it.

Regardless of how you choose to spend your time, keep in mind that the only thing that is expected over the next few years is that you develop a critical and inquisitive mind. That, I think, is the true purpose of a university education— not to endure countless hours of boring lectures or memorize obscure theories and formulae that you will inevitably forget.

There are many ways of going about challenging oneself and getting the most out of university. Some students immerse themselves in varsity or intramural sports, where they develop a sense of discipline and healthy competition. Others get involved in political or social activism to advocate for the issues about which they feel passionate.

Some pursue writing and journalism and contribute to the plethora of media on campus, while others take on volunteerism or student government to serve the community and represent fellow students.

There are also dozens of cultural, religious and social clubs on campus where you can meet people, experiment with different ideas and learn how to cook or dance. Alternatively, many students choose not to do anything extracurricular at all, focusing instead on academia or boozing with friends.

If you’re going into the arts or commerce, try and take an introductory course in any scientific discipline. This will help you appreciate rapidly evolving scientific principles that increasingly govern our lives. You will also learn a different approach to interpreting and tackling problems within your own area of study.

If you’re entering a scientific field, try and take courses in the arts or commerce. As a science student, I often enrolled in courses that were completely unrelated to my program to broaden my thinking and learn different things.

I particularly enjoyed the introductory philosophy courses on critical thinking and moral issues, and the numerous creative writing courses offered by the Writing Centre.

So good luck with the remaining weeks of your last summer before university and get ready for an incredible journey that will certainly challenge you into becoming a more confident and capable member of society.

And whatever you do, don’t flip over a car.

--Ahmed Kayssi is a second-year medical student who has spent his entire university career at Queen’s. His column, arguendo, will grace the Opinions page every two weeks.

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