Why I didn't wanna be a Gael

Canada's only student-run Frosh Week aims to be more inclusive for 2012 through new training sessions in accessibility and student engagement

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I still think back to my uncertainty when I decided to become a Gael two years ago.

After all, I spent the majority of first year watching reruns of bad sitcoms in my residence room.

If an incoming first-year had asked me what to expect at Queen’s, I might’ve told them to expect to cry during the final episode of Friends. Or maybe I’d warn them that watching the first season of Survivor just for fun is never a good idea.

And so went my lacklustre list of useless advice I would give to first years.

The reality is that I often cringed at the thought that I could offer meaningful guidance to first-year students. I was still navigating the first-year university experience myself.

It didn’t help that I had no idea where Metro was or what lay beyond the dark abyss known as North of Princess.

It also didn’t help that I’d missed most of the events during my Frosh Week due to sheer shyness — further supporting my belief that participating as an orientation leader, in any way, was simply a bad idea.

Pelvic thrusting was awkward, and referring to myself as a Frosh felt self-depricating.

In short, my sheltered experience as a first year made me doubt my potential to have any value as a Gael.

But new initiatives this year aim to make Frosh Week more visible and inclusive, and I welcome the changes.

The turning point for me was when I realized Frosh Week is an entirely student-run initiative. Suddenly, my perception of what I had to offer changed.

As a first year, there’s something unique about knowing that prior to even applying to Queen’s, there are students making every effort to ensure you will have a smooth transition to university life.

Having been on the organizational side of Frosh Week, I now understand that even before the day my letter of acceptance wound up in my mailbox, events were carefully considered and reconsidered — all to ensure there would be something for everyone.

This year, the Frosh Week chairs are committed to increasing the visibility of cultural diversity at Queen’s. We’re also committed to making all orientation events as accessible as possible.

After being hired in November, the orientation committee immediately began considering ways in which every single orientation-related activity can adhere to these commitments in a safe, inclusive and ultimately enjoyable way.

Incoming Gaels, too, can anticipate some changes in their roles. As our direct link to first-year students, we’d like to provide them with new training sessions in community relations, accessibility and Frosh engagement.

We want students to be more engaged in the planning process. That’s why we’ve added opportunities for past Gaels to share their experiences during the training period.

At its core, Frosh Week is about students helping students — so expanding this concept to the training side of things seems natural.

It was the prospects of a student-run orientation that led me to the Wanna Be a Gael meeting in January 2010.

In November, we held our first-ever Frosh Day, an initiative designed to show Frosh that upper-years are still resources beyond Frosh Week.

If the turnout to the event was any indication of the enthusiasm and dedication so many Queen’s students have for orientation, I anticipate this year’s Wanna be a Gael meeting, being held next Thursday, will attract even the most unsure among us.

Having been part of Frosh Week for my past two and a half years at Queen’s, I’ve met people with such a wide range of reasons for participating in the week.

For some, it was an instant connection: having attended all the events during Frosh Week, this group knew from the beginning that being deeply involved in this week would only bring more great memories.

For others, like myself, who had a clumsy beginning to their university experience, this would be the greatest opportunity to contribute a different perspective to the week.

After all, at that point I’d come up with one piece of advice I could offer to first years: don’t do what I did.

I didn’t wanna be a Gael. At least not initially — but I’m glad I was.

For many, participating in Frosh Week as a student leader was the first step to getting involved and finding their place at Queen’s.

Having the opportunity to share with a group of students everything you wish you could’ve been told when you were in first year is a difficult task. But it’s a challenge worth accepting.

Aanjalie Collure is Head Gael for ASUS Frosh Week 2012.

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