When we knew Queen’s was right for us

Students discuss finding a new home

The Queen’s flag blowing in the wind.
Photo: 

As the first days of classes close, some students already feel at home already while others are doubting their choice of university.

The Journal asked students to share when they knew Queen’s was the right school for them. We hope these stories will prove that if you haven’t fallen in love with Queen’s in your first week—or year—you can still find a home. 

***

“Once upon a time, my first-year self expected to feel at home at Queen’s by Thanksgiving.  But when December came around,  I still felt like a guest.

I was pretending to be comfortable—playing the role of a student—without feeling at home.

Finding a sense of community in extracurriculars changed everything. I remember singing with Queen’s all-female choir, The Caledonias, for the first time, and suddenly feeling like I was a part of something. 

Singing with them gave me a literal voice and made me feel like I was more than just another first-year student struggling to see the screen in 400-person lectures. 

Since then, I have signed up for many other extracurricular activities that have enriched my Queen’s experience—so much so that my friends jokingly call me “Miss Major in Extracurriculars with a Minor in Academics.” 

Amidst broad and impersonal undergrad academics, extracurriculars gave me countless connections  and sense of belonging at school. Although I care deeply about my academics, I have found that clubs, committees, and conferences have become my life preserver at Queen’s.”

— Kaylee O’Meara, ArtSci ‘20

***

“I felt a lot of conflicting emotions during my first two months at Queen’s. Prior to arriving, I was warned Queen’s didn’t have a lot of minority students. Though I was advised to be weary, I was still so excited to start school. 

But, upon my arrival, it was impossible not to notice I was the only racialized person on my residence floor, or that there were not a lot of people on campus who looked like me. Being from Toronto, the lack of diversity in Kingston immediately stood out and sent me into an internal crisis.

In mid-October, I argued with a floormate about cultural appropriation and dressing up like Pocahontas for Halloween. That was close to the peak of my frustration about issues of race at Queen’s—only to be topped by the infamous costume party of 2016, which happened the next week.  

Exasperated from trying to come to terms with being a minority at Queen’s, the next night I saw there was a workshop being held by the Committee Against Racial and Ethnic Discrimination (CARED) to discuss cultural appropriation. I decided to go. 

That workshop is the reason I’m still at Queen’s. 

Attendees let out their feelings and grievances about not only cultural appropriation, but also micro-aggressions and racialization. I finally felt a sense of comfort knowing there were people going through the same things as me, and that there were clubs and committees in place trying to help people reconcile these feelings. 

Now, two years later, I am the acting chair of CARED. I hope I can help students navigate the same issues and feelings I felt coming into school.”

—Samira Levesque, ArtSci ‘20

***

“Deciding between schools when you’re just finishing high school can be extremely difficult. You are rushing to end one chapter of your life while hurtling toward another. Most students will hopefully choose their schools wisely—but I didn’t. 

I first attended the University of Ottawa and it was easily one of the worst moves I’ve made academically, financially and psychologically. I transferred to Queen’s to be closer to home. 

This change of direction left me both excited and full of regret. I was relieved to be free of an unhealthy situation but the self-imposed failure embarrassed me. After a tumultuous summer dealing with my father’s death, I was happy to find myself with a new campus and a fresh start. 

Quickly, I found my initial fear about transferring and self-doubt abated as I joined clubs, societies, and committees. I found my voice and place on campus along the way. 

The moment I felt at home was in April of my first year, as I stood on University Avenue in a cheap suit glowing with pride and looking over campus. I was coming off a very successful job interview after which I was confident I’d found work. More importantly, I’d found a home.”

— Cade Cowan, ArtSci ‘19

***

“I knew I belonged at Queen’s on the second day of my residence orientation. 

Once the first day’s anxiety mellowed into excitement for the future, I remember walking down University Avenue with a group of floormates and somehow I already felt at home. I even turned to one of my new friends and told them Queen’s was exactly where I was meant to be—it was an unexplainable gut feeling of peace. 

I’d chosen Queen’s based mostly on my campus tour and my mom’s experience at the school. However, leading up to frosh week, I still wasn’t sure it was for me. It wasn’t until I was on my own, standing on a street my mom walked on 30 years before me, that I truly knew. 

Heading into my third year at Queen’s, I’m just as thrilled as I was that second night, watching my fellow first-year students talk, laugh, and run under the streetlamps. I know that I’ll still feel that way in my final year, until I take my very last walk down the centre of main campus.”

— Ally Mastantuono, ArtSci ‘20

***

“When I was 16, I made an arbitrary decision: campus tours would guide me to the right school. 

As a result, I initially chose Queen’s based off its vibe. 

I liked the feel of Queen’s on the sunny March day of my tour and liked how going into Concurrent Education would give me a direct career path once I graduated while still allowing me to explore my choice of General Arts courses. 

Looking back, I couldn’t have been so sure Queen’s was right. It wasn’t the vibe or faculty that made me feel at home here. It was a decision I made during my education.

More than half way through my second year, I decided to switch to a Gender Studies medial and go after the Sexual and Gender Diversity Certificate. This choice was definitely worth the inconvenience of changing my path.  I finally felt like I was studying something I genuinely cared about. 

Adding Gender Studies to my Queen’s experience has provided me with a true sense of belonging. 

We focus most of our time at school on our studies, and putting my thoughts and energy into a fascinating subject has made this school feel more right for me than any other endeavour. 

I wouldn’t have guessed in Grade 12 that my academic choices would make my university experience feel just right.”

— Allie Fenwick, ConEd ‘20

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.