Words of wisdom from someone who survived

Rachel Percy is the great-granddaughter of Kate Aitken, a prolific journalist who covered everything from interviews with Stalin, Mussolini and Mao to making fruitcake on a budget.
Rachel Percy is the great-granddaughter of Kate Aitken, a prolific journalist who covered everything from interviews with Stalin, Mussolini and Mao to making fruitcake on a budget.
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Three years ago, I wrote a piece for the Journal’s frosh supplement. I had just graduated from high school, and my best friend’s older sister—an editor at the Journal—asked me to write something about my expectations for my first year at Queen’s. I wrote the article, confessing that I had no idea what to expect.

I lied. I knew exactly what to expect: it was going to be great. My classes were going to be fascinating, my professors brilliant, and my marks excellent. I was obviously going to be on the Dean’s list, probably with distinction. Never mind that I hadn’t been offered an entrance scholarship—I was going to wow Queen’s with my genius, and win all the in-course awards offered. My academic excellence wasn’t going to come at the price of sacrificing the rest of my life, though. I was also going to join half a dozen committees, and—let’s face it—I was probably going to be running the AMS by the time I graduated. And of course I would still have time to go out every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. I spent most of first year in my room, downloading episodes of Sex and the City, and trying to ignore the deadlines (and then late penalties) as they piled up. Kingston, a city I thought would be charming and beautiful, felt small and suffocating. Queen’s, a name that I once thought dripped with prestige, now struck me as narcissistic and self-congratulatory. I wished desperately that I’d gone to McGill, Dalhousie, Carleton—anywhere but here.

But regardless of how bad first year seemed, I’m now facing a difficult truth: three years later, Queen’s has really grown on me. Once I got past my expectations of effortless academic glory, and I really started to like my classes. And once I pared down my extra-curriculars, I was able to enjoy them, instead of trying to juggle half a dozen meetings per week.

Kingston is still a small town, but it’s been big enough for me to carve out my own space, and if you find—like I did—that you wouldn’t go to the Hub if it were the last place on earth to get a beer, just keep walking. There are plenty of other places to go and things to do in Kingston, that don’t involve sacrificing your dignity for $1.50 shots.

For every paper that brought me to tears, there was a fun party, a great kiss, and a new friend. Eight months will zoom by, and when you pack up in April, you won’t be the same person you were in September. Your marks will be lower, and you will have put on some weight. You won’t talk to your friends from high school as much, and if you move back home for the summer, your parents’ house may seem a little confining. But you’ll have made new friends, had new experiences, and discovered a new city. And if your first year hasn’t met all of your expectations, you have three more to get it right. And believe me: they only get better.

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