Frosh Week: Wonderful welcome or brainwashing bandwagon?

point counterpoint

Lisa Jemison
Lisa Jemison
Katie Drummond
Katie Drummond

‘Think twice before you reject Frosh Week’

If there hadn’t been another girl from my floor in my frosh group, I never would have made it out on the second day of Frosh Week.

Not because I hadn’t had fun on day one, but because my sense of direction is so utterly abysmal that getting from Vic Hall to the front steps of Dunning seemed an insurmountable challenge.

Lucky for me, Frosh Week included a tour or two, and I’m pretty sure I got a map somewhere along the way, too. It may have taken me longer than most, but by the end of the week, I had learned how to navigate campus and beyond. Along the way I even made a few friends, rolled in some peat moss and learned more about the school at which I had chosen to spend four years of my life.

Before I go on, attempting to convince impressionable young readers of the glories of Frosh Week, concessions need to be made: Yes, the entire week will make you feel like you’re away at summer camp. Not everyone finds rolling around in peat moss and shaving cream to be an enjoyable experience. Screaming group cheers until you’re hoarse might not be one of your favourite activities. Trust me, you’re bound to stop at least once while chanting the Oil Thigh (for the third time that day) to wonder, “Did I accidentally join a cult instead of a university?” Although refusing the Kool-Aid is probably a good idea, think twice before you reject Frosh Week.

Apart from wandering around horribly confused as to where I was, the week was an amazing and, in some ways, necessary experience.

Frosh groups tend to be organized according to program and department, so chances are you’ll find a few friendly faces to seek out on your first day of class. Your group leaders—be they Gaels, FRECs, Teaches or any other faculty denomination—have successfully completed their first year and can probably offer some perspective on classes, professors and the university experience in general.

Your frosh group is a way to meet people beyond your floor. It can be tough to do so otherwise, especially before clubs have started up for the year.

And then there’s the peat moss. And the shaving cream. And the cheers. Oh, the never-ending cheers. You spend the week in the same oversized, increasingly dirty T-shirt and the coveralls which you are, according to tradition, honour-bound to never wash. Ever. You’re expected to shout and jump and dance in lines to your year’s theme song, and then run around town asking people for money to fight cystic fibrosis as part of the Shinerama fundraiser. Wild times, all around.

And if, after giving it a try, you decide it’s not really for you, don’t give up completely. Check out the week’s schedule and see if any activities interest you, then arrange to meet up with your group there. If you really don’t click with your group, join up with another.

So pull on those coveralls and give it a try.

And, at the very least, show up for the campus and downtown tour. Trust me on that one.

--Lisa Jemison

Frosh week a ‘much-hyped bonanza’

My first day at university was horrible. My stomach was tied in so many knots that no amount of trips to the bathroom was enough to resolve my gastrointestinal woes. I cried so much when my parents left that my don tried to refer me to a crisis counsellor. And let’s not get into the debacle of my first floor meeting, which saw me trip over a power cord and gracelessly flash a roomful of stunned fellow frosh--the same ones I would be co-habitating with for the next eight months.

Of course, each subsequent day at Queen’s got a little easier. What made a positive difference in my acclimatization? My sassy roommate, for one; phone calls home, for another, and my own exploration of the University campus and the city surrounding it.

That said, other aspects of my Queen’s integration made a not-so-positive difference in my adjustment. The big one? The much-hyped bonanza of Frosh Week.

Reasons for my disdain of this yearly tradition are numerous, but it all comes down to one major caveat: Frosh Week, to me, puts first year students into a one-size-fits-all framework—one not everyone can squeeze into.

I’m probably extending my neuroses of alienation a bit too far here, but hear me out. Frosh Week, to me, seeps the importance of the Queen’s cookie-cutter from every pore (muddy and moss-covered though they are).

The minute you meet up with your group of fellow poliscis, commies or engineers, your name is suddenly stamped with label upon label. Are you in Arts, or in Commerce? Are you a major, or a medial? Are you a Vic Hall or a West Campus? Suddenly, nouns become adjectives, none of them truly reflective of who you are.

I’m not one to suggest that the Oil Thigh sung backwards contains a hidden brainwash code, or that you will have a terrible time and should spend the entire week locked in the washroom. Is it entirely possible that Frosh Week will be a fun-filled, memorable time? Absolutely. Are there other, and potentially more valuable, ways to spend your time while your peers rub themselves in filth and jeer at other faculties? Most definitely.

My experience with organized Frosh Week lasted all of two hours, during which time I realized that dressing up like Derek Zoolander and making small talk with strangers was not how I wanted to adapt to my new environment. Instead, I used the week as a chance to explore Kingston, settle into my new dorm abode, and make connections with the floormates I had so unfortunately revealed myself to at our first encounter.

The communal chants and ceaseless smiles of Frosh Week festivities might be just the ticket for some, but don’t delude yourself into thinking that you can’t be a well-adjusted Queen’s student without a dirty pair of coveralls stinking up your closet. You never know when new connections will be forged or where you’ll be when that feeling of settled security hits. Forcing yourself to dance in circles and feign enthusiasm when you’d rather sit through a root canal certainly won’t help. So if Frosh Week doesn’t click, shake it off, and go try something else.

--Katie Drummond

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